Clinton Philanthropy
Mike Wintroath  /  AP
Former President Bill Clinton says investments in alternative energy could spark a job boom that many rural areas need.
updated 7/14/2009 6:22:48 PM ET 2009-07-14T22:22:48

Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that the activity by nonprofit foundations to help rural parts of the country has been "woefully inadequate" and encouraged workers in those areas to focus on alternative energy initiatives.

Speaking at a conference on rural philanthropy, Clinton said that the White House can't reduce poverty without focusing on rural development. Clinton said that anti-obesity efforts and programs to promote reforestation are initiatives that could help rural areas.

"The foundation activity in rural America has been woefully inadequate," Clinton told members of the Council of Foundations, which held its conference at Clinton's presidential library.

Clinton said that groups that work in rural areas need to make a better case advocating why more foundation help is needed in those areas. Clinton said that rural areas could try to copy reforestation efforts that are under way in rain forests in other countries.

"We can beat up on people and say they should give more money in rural America, but we should give them some new ideas," Clinton said.

Clinton says that rural areas could end up benefiting more than larger cities from the federal stimulus package, citing funding that's been set aside to deliver broadband Internet to underserved areas.

Alternative energy
Clinton also encouraged those working rural areas to focus on ways to invest in alternative energy, such as wind and solar power. Clinton said investments in alternative energy could spark a job boom that many rural areas need.

"If we did it, it would spark the largest job boom we've had since World War II, and we wouldn't have to shoot anyone to do it," Clinton said. "Rural America should be a part of that."

The 42nd president, who was born in Hope and raised in Hot Springs, said that he believed that charities that work in rural areas should find more ways to work with charities that work in urban areas. When asked about the state of rural areas, Clinton said that charities in those areas should find ways to create hope for the people living there.

"Why do you think people in rural America are so dismal? Because they think that tomorrow is going to be just like yesterday," Clinton said. "It's not because they're poor, but because they're stuck in a rut they can't get out of."

The conference held by the Arlington, Va.-based Council on Foundations started Monday and is scheduled to end Wednesday. Other speakers scheduled to speak include Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe.

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