I hope to inspire young people to dare to think great thoughts and dream impossible dreams.
This article was first published in The Daily Bruin by Ben Thaler, Daily Bruin reporter.
His book, titled "A Time to Lead," is about presenting and defining American values and ideals, he said.
"America is in need of leadership – the right kind with the right orientation, and the world is out there waiting for us to lead," said Clark, who joined UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations last year.
Taking a question from the audience on foreign policy, Clark called the Bush administration arrogant and reckless, particularly in regard to the Iraq war.
"We’ve found that you can’t impose democracy and values on people of a different set of beliefs," he said.
Clark added that he believes the United States made a mistake in invading Iraq and failing to do the necessary planning to handle the aftermath.
The presence of Iranian-sponsored forces in Iraq has also destabilized the political situation, Clark said.
But despite what Clark called Iran’s "encroachment" into Iraq, he said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a head of state and deserves a public platform to state his views.
Columbia University recently invited Ahmadinejad to speak, a decision that drew much controversy because of the Iranian president’s past remarks on the United States and Israel.
Clark said Columbia was right to allow Ahmadinejad to speak, and he stated that all world leaders should be allowed to speak in the United States unless they are indicted war criminals.
Armen Ter-Barsegian, a first-year undeclared student, said he sees Clark as a credible voice because of his extensive military experience, which includes a tenure as the supreme allied commander of NATO troops in Europe.
"People listen to him because he really knows what’s going on, especially regarding the situation in Iraq," Ter-Barsegian said.
Barbara Maida, a doctoral student in geography, said she appreciates Clark because he is a military leader who is not afraid to criticize the government.
"In this generation of military leaders, it’s sometimes hard to find someone who can make statements unafraid," Maida said.
Clark said he hopes young people will read his book because he writes about experiences from his own youth, such as growing up in the segregated south and serving in the Vietnam War.
At one point, the discussion turned to Clark’s experiences growing up – particularly his service in Vietnam.
He said he first became aware of what it meant to be an American when he was injured by machine gun fire in Vietnam.
Clark was narrowly saved by another soldier, and he said afterward that he realized every soldier fighting was in the same boat, regardless of background or beliefs.
"I hope to inspire young people to dare to think great thoughts and dream impossible dreams," Clark said.
As a fellow at the Burkle Center, Clark has visited campus several times over the past year and said he is enjoying his time at “one of America’s great, dynamic universities.”
"I have given lectures, I have helped organize a conference, and I’ll be helping teach a class this year," Clark said, referring to his past and future plans at UCLA.
A UCLA sports fan, Clark said he also enjoyed watching the teams compete in national championships. As a former swimmer, he urged students to support “minor sports” that don’t receive as much publicity.
View a Daily Bruin Television interview with Clark and video from the event (Flash required).