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July 26, 2014

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Bill Clinton outlines Haiti relief efforts in Las Vegas speech

Harrah’s Entertainment donates $1 million to former president’s philanthropic foundation

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Leila Navidi / Las Vegas Sun

Former President Bill Clinton sits down to answer questions with Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations for Harrah’s Entertainment in front of a crowd of Harrah’s employees at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas Monday Feb. 22, 2010.

Harrah's Gives $1 Million to Clinton Foundation

The Harrah's Foundation presented former President Bill Clinton with a $1 million donation to the William J. Clinton Foundation Monday at Caesars Palace. Clinton then gave a speech to Harrah's employees and others about his work in Haiti, why individual charity and volunteering can make a difference, and his belief that Nevada will make it out of the economic downturn even stronger than before.

Bill Clinton at the Colosseum

Former President Bill Clinton sits down to answer questions with Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations for Harrah's Entertainment in front of a crowd of Harrah's employees at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas Monday Feb. 22, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Wealth and power aren’t required for initiating change, but turning good intentions into action can make all the difference in the world, former President Bill Clinton told an audience of Harrah’s Entertainment employees Monday evening.

“In these speeches I try to give people a way to think about the modern world ... in terms of the larger trends going on in the world,” Clinton said. “Then, I try to convince people that you don’t have to be in politics and you don’t have to be a millionaire to do something about it.”

Clinton spoke about his efforts to fight global poverty and climate change, as well as his work in Haiti during an address at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. The speech preceded another speech later in the evening titled “Embracing our Common Humanity.”

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Former President Bill Clinton sits down to answer questions with Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations for Harrah's Entertainment, in front of a crowd of Harrah's employees at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas Monday, Feb. 22, 2010.

Harrah’s Foundation Vice Chairwoman Jan Jones announced that the company’s foundation is donating $1 million to the William J. Clinton Foundation to help fund its recovery efforts in Haiti and other struggling nations.

“Our support will help the Clinton Foundation to reach people in this country and across the world,” Jones said.

The Clinton Foundation already had helped to raise an estimated $428 million for the impoverished country during the two years before the earthquake struck on Jan. 12.

Clinton was appointed the United Nation’s special envoy to Haiti in May 2009 and has been working with relief organizations, along with his foundation, since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit last month. More than 70 percent of Haiti’s people live on less than $2 a day, Clinton said, making it even more difficult to recover from the natural disaster.

“The poorest countries in the world have capacity problems. They can’t take for granted what we take for granted. You’d be shocked if the air conditioning went off or if the lights went out,” Clinton said. “I work in places, including Haiti, where they can’t take any of that for granted.”

Clinton said during his second trip to Haiti he saw small signs of recovery -- like Haitian artists and vendors returning to the streets -- but he said long-term recovery is far away.

“We’ve got to get them living out of day-to-day,” he said. “We’ve got to get them living week-to-week and then month-to-month before we can start the long-term reconstruction.”

Clinton’s foundation has 1,100 volunteers and employees in more than 40 countries working on behalf of causes like economic development in emerging countries, HIV/AIDS and climate change.

The former president commended Harrah’s employees for their 114,000 volunteer hours logged in 2009. He also praised the company’s environmental program, Code Green.

“Look at what Harrah’s has done with Code Green. Yeah, you’ve saved a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, but you’ve saved a whole lot of money, too,” Clinton said. “In the process, you’ve enabled the company to weather this economic storm better than it would have.”

Clinton’s speech focused on global issues and his foundation’s efforts around the world, but he briefly touched on Las Vegas’ economic woes.

“Before the downturn, your state was the fastest-growing state in America,” he said. “But you actually got blind-sided by overbuilding because you were on a trajectory that the next five years would be like the last 15.

“When you come out of it, I believe you’ll be stronger and better for the changes that will be made here -- and I do believe you will come out of it.”

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