As President Obama and Mitt Romney faced off in their final debate about foreign policy, two of America’s most experienced global politicians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband former President Bill Clinton traveled on a one-day trip to Haiti. The purpose of the trip was philanthropic, but the couple left a little room for romance, reminiscing about the last time they were in the country together for their honeymoon more than 37 years ago.
President Clinton, jokingly thanked the secretary for inviting him to the event, an opening of an industrial park with new businesses in Northern Haiti.
“Some of you know we came here on a delayed honeymoon 37 years ago in December,” said the former president. “You know she’s been here a lot and I started coming here before the earthquake. I’ve been here so much I’m sure I owe taxes to the Haitian government I have not paid. But in all those 37 years this is the first time we have been back together,” he joked.
President Clinton congratulated the people of Haiti for their resiliency and resolve to de-centralize the country’s economy and invite foreign investment.
When it was Secretary Clinton’s turn to speak she also told the crowd that the she and her husband “fell in love” with Haiti, and that the country was special to them.
“As Bill told you, we came here for the first time together just after we were married and fell in love with Haiti, and have just celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary, which is exhausting to think about,” said the Secretary to laughter and sustained applause. ”It’s been an amazing experience from start to now and we have had a deep connection to and with Haiti ever since. So it gives me a special pleasure to be here with my husband, who has worked so hard on behalf of Haiti and its development, because he believes so much in the people of Haiti and the potential that exists within each and every man, woman, boy, and girl.”
The Clintons were joined on the trip by actors Sean Penn, Maria Bello, Ben Stiller and his wife, as well as model Petra Nemacova, fashion designer Donna Karen and Sir Richard Branson. The group opened a $300 million facility in the Caracol area of Haiti, located more than a 100 miles from the worst-hit areas of the 2010 quake zone. The hope is that the Caracol Industrial park will provide thousands of jobs to the northern part of the country, helping to transform Haiti’s fragile economy.
The trip wasn’t all sunshine, however. A producer traveling with the secretary reported some tense moments getting out of the often chaotic country. An afternoon rain storm meant that the motorcade had to race to the airport to take off before 5:30 p.m. because the runway had no lights. The press and staff vans got separated from the rest of the motorcade, forcing them to catch up, driving through narrow city streets in a manner he described as “terrifying” with on coming vehicles and donkeys being forced off the road. President Clinton rode with his wife in the motorcade, but was dropped off at his private plane before the secretary’s plane, which was the largest, took off first.