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Former president visits UCM

WARRENSBURG (AP) — Days after the U.S. military operation that led to Osama bin Laden’s death, former President Bill Clinton focused on the battle against global warming rather than the war on terror Friday night during his graduation remarks to the University of Central Missouri.

The two-term Democratic president came to Warrensburg to receive an honorary doctorate degree at the school’s commencement ceremony for graduate students. Making the first visit to the school by a former U.S. commander in chief since Harry S. Truman, Clinton encouraged the Class of 2011 and thousands more in attendance to join his efforts fighting excessive energy production and consumption.

“Changing the way we produce and consume energy is the single most important thing we can do,” Clinton said.

Clinton lauded a $36 million effort at Central Missouri to make older campus buildings more energy efficient. He also praised the school’s planned National Energy Retrofit Institute at its Lee’s Summit satellite campus, which plans to retrain displaced construction workers and housing industry workers.

The New York resident spoke only briefly about bin Laden’s death, framing it in the context of the challenges graduates face in a world where the terror threat remains strong while an economic recovery remains elusive.

Clinton received several standing ovations and was greeted with applause a half-dozen times, including when he urged the audience to transcend partisan politics and ideological differences to lessen economic inequality.

“This is not a Republican or Democratic argument. This is the new radicalism,” he said. “If you don’t think we’re all in this together, we’re toast.”

Clinton’s appearance generated significant buzz at the university, which is about 65 miles southeast of Kansas City. The 2,500 tickets made available to students, faculty, staff and the general public beyond those offered to new graduates and their guests were snapped up in less than six hours on Wednesday, said school spokesman Jeff Murphy. The former president was not paid for his appearance, Murphy said.

The university honored Clinton for his commitment to education and philanthropy as well as his service to the country. That includes his work through the William J. Clinton Foundation to promote worldwide health and economic development initiatives, as well as his post-presidential trips to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the 2009 earthquake in Haiti.

Clinton in turn was equally effusive about the school’s conservation efforts, which he said “put this university on the forefront of energy efficiency.”

“This campus is a place that is creating the possibilities of the future,” he said.

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