One of the benefits of being an old guy and living in Washington, D.C., is that I have had the privilege of meeting almost every U.S. President since Eisenhower. Each is a remarkable leader in their own way, right for their times, endorsed through election by the American people.
Last week in Orlando, Florida, former President Bill Clinton addressed the general managers of our 2,700 select service hotels, brands which you are all acquainted with. His keynote address focused on Marriott's core value to Serve Our World.
Perhaps no U.S. President has done more to Serve the World in the decade since he left the White House. President Clinton has focused on response and resilience after tsunamis in East Asia, Hurricane Katrina and the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Using his powerful personal brand and charisma, he has supported programs addressing HIV-AIDS in Africa, climate change and the environment, and empowering women and girls around the world.
Watching him speak to our general managers, for one hour without any notes, shows the power of curiosity when combined with a brilliant mind and a passion for improving the state of the world.
Backstage, we talked about the Marriott culture and how our company has been focused on serving the communities where we do business for more than 86 years, ever since my parents founded the company in 1927. While I may not agree with President Clinton on all of his political issues, I salute his commitment to creating the change he wants to see for a better world.
When I asked him what he thought America’s challenges were, he said, “The people in Washington need to approach legislation with an open hand and not a clenched fist.” He said, “As soon as both parties each learn to give a little, we will begin to see things get done and the country will move ahead.” I thought that was sound advice for anybody trying to get things done, whether it’s in business or in government.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.