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Bill Clinton Talks Health, Business At National Restaurant Association Show

By Anthony Todd in Food on May 7, 2012 2:00PM

Via National Restaurant Association Facebook Page.

With all the strange signs, fake food and electronic gadgets, it's easy to forget that the National Restaurant Association show brings together a lot of powerful people in one room. The people at this convention control much of the food that goes into your mouth (a somewhat frightening thought for those of us who regularly attend NRA) and have a significant impact on nutritional policy. So, who better to give the keynote speech to this year's NRA than former president Bill Clinton, the great compromiser and a relatively recent convert to the cause of healthy eating? Clinton spoke to the convention about nutrition, childhood obesity and the Affordable Care Act.

Since President Clinton's heart surgery in 2004, he has been a vocal advocate for healthy eating. For the NRA organization, which has endorsed nutritional labels on menus and other healthy eating intitiatives, this made him a great choice - though we'd be willing to bet that the hundreds of purveyors of frozen fried foods in the audience weren't all as enthusiastic. But Clinton toed a business-friendly line, according to the Sun-Times', especially when describing his efforts to reduce soda consumption in schools.

"“I learned for example that our children who have particular weight problems, an extraordinary percentage of them were getting 50 to 60 percent of their daily calories just from the drinks they consumed at schools . . . We got together with the big players in the soft drink industry . . . then we got more and more of the people who put the juices in the vending machines. Four years after that agreement, in over 90 percent of the schools, there has been an 88 percent reduction in the total calories in drinks shipped to our schools to be served in vending machines or cafeterias, no tax, no regulations, no nothing, a simple agreement by people who found a way to pursue a legitimate business strategy and save our kids’ health."

Appropriately for a president whose hallmark was working with a recalcitrant congress who hated his guts, Clinton constantly advocated compromise. "The world we live in has a lot of challenges that don't have simple, ideological solutions. Argument is good, debate is critical, but cooperation works better than conflict in a 21st century world." With regards to the current political gridlock, he pointed to the American people, who he said must "own up" to the fact that they elected a congress that can't move forward.

The Tribune reported that President Clinton also spoke in support of the Affordable Care Act, reminding the audience that Mitt Romney supported the measure in a past life. "The most horrible alternative is to stay with what we have" on health care, argued Clinton and he said that he hoped the Supreme Court wouldn't overturn the Affordable Care act. He also praised Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to partner with private groups to rebuild Chicago's infrastructure.

As always, Clinton could be counted on for a few jokes. Clinton assured the audience, “I don’t want to come here and make you mad, because, you know, Hillary’s got a traveling job, and so I spend an inordinate amount of time in restaurants.”