KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -
Former President Bill Clinton was in Kansas City to accept the 2013 Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award.
He received the award Wednesday afternoon at the downtown Marriott during the foundation's annual luncheon, the 129th birthday of Truman.
Karl Zobrist, president of the award foundation, said Clinton was chosen because of his record of public service.
More than 1,000 people turned out to listen to Clinton's acceptance speech and they stayed for an impromptu meet and greet. Clinton told the packed ballroom at the Muehlebach Tower that Truman is one man he always wanted to meet.
"Truman was right - being a good neighbor, more than ever before, is the best policy," he said.
Clinton was president from 1993 through 2001. Zobrist said in a statement that since leaving the White House, Clinton's continued public service work has exemplified the spirit and principles to which Truman was dedicated.
His vast record of public service includes helping to raise enormous amounts of money following natural disasters and creating health initiatives that are currently helping 4 million people with HIV and AIDS obtain the drugs they need to live. Clinton also did a lot of work to save the environment and, while in office, he authorized the spending of $3 billion to fund the human genome sequence project, a project that showed us how alike we actually are - something Clinton said Truman always knew.
"Harry Truman knew - long before the human genome sequence - that we were mostly the same and that the job of politics, as he used to say was his job, consisted of telling people to do the things they should've done without having to ask in the first place," Clinton said.
Previous recipients of the award include President Gerald R. Ford, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, actor Gary Sinise and news anchor Walter Cronkite.
Also while in the White House, Clinton helped create more than 22 million jobs during one of the United States' strongest economies. People attending Wednesday's awards feel it can be that way again.
"His basic message was we need to value diversity, we need to value differences of opinion and embrace that," said Councilman for the 6th District John Sharp.
"Hopefully everybody that came here today takes something from this and we all could come together as one and work and make this a better place," said attendee Dane Sinclair.
For some, his words of being a good neighbor sunk deep.
"Community, one community. I think it's evident in all the things that's been happening recently that community is very important and we need to come together," attendee from Kansas City Tina Wurth said.
"He is very optimistic and I totally agree with everything he said related to being a good neighbor and what that means," attendee from Overland Park Miranda Horrell said.
"The message that he brought today is the lesson of Harry Truman and what he did to be a good neighbor and to understand that politics is about people and helping people is something that we all need to take to heart," Former Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said.
On Tuesday, Clinton said the endless speculation about his wife's political future is a waste of time right now and the nation should be more focused on the "grimy details" of fixing its problems.
"That is the worst expenditure of our time," Clinton said at the 2013 Fiscal Summit, where he appeared with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gates joked that he didn't think his wife, the highly regarded philanthropist, would run for president. The former president then chimed in, to laughter, "Hillary hasn't mentioned it to me, either."
Clinton said the former secretary of state and New York senator was taking a role at the Clinton Foundation, writing a book and "having a little fun being a private citizen for the first time in 20 years."
"That's fine but we need to be worried about the work at hand - all of us do," Clinton said. "So whoever the next president is has an easier set of choices before him or her to build America's future."
Clinton said the focus on presidential politics, only a few months after President Barack Obama's re-election last year, "obscures our capacity" to tackle the nation's big problems and "plays to our national tendency to attention deficit disorder when it comes to politics."