FORMER US president Bill Clinton is to deliver a keynote speech at a glittering awards do – after an invite went out from an Edinburgh sandwich shop owner.
Clinton will address the Scottish Business Awards after months of painstaking work on the part of Josh Littlejohn, who organises the event and runs an acclaimed socially-conscious sandwich shop.
Mr Littlejohn, 26, is delighted to have landed such a heavyweight name. He said: “It’s great for the profile of the Scottish Business Awards.”
The move will see Clinton – who travels with a Secret Service protection unit – return to the city where he proposed to wife Hillary, 65.
The June event will see the 66-year-old give a speech entitled Embracing Our Common Humanity. Roughly 1400 businessmen and women from around the country are expected to attend, .
One person at every £3000 VIP table will also get to meet and be photographed with Mr Clinton, who served eight years in office between 1993 and 2001.
Event organiser Mr Littlejohn, who owns Social Bite in Rose Street, said: “At last year’s event the keynote speaker was Bob Geldof and he helped organise a prize at our charity auction from The Clinton Foundation, where the winner got to spend a day with the former president.
“As we also have a connection with him through his work with Sir Tom Hunter, who is chair of the awards judging panel, we decided to ask if Mr Clinton would consider coming to speak at this year’s awards. It’s taken months of organisation, but we have finally confirmed that he will be attending.”
The William J Clinton Foundation works to “improve global health, strengthen economies, promote healthier childhoods and health and wellness, and protect the environment by fostering partnerships among businesses, governments, non-governmental organisations and private citizens”.
The Clinton-Hunter Initiative, a partnership between Mr Clinton and businessman Sir Tom, who made his fortune through shop chain Sports Division, works in Rwanda and Malawi to create a sustainable economy and better quality of life through improved agriculture and healthcare.
Mr Littlejohn said: “The Clinton Foundation’s work to use business strategies to tackle poverty make the former president extremely well suited to the kind of event we wish to have.”
However, as Mr Clinton’s schedule is only allowing him to make a whirlwind visit to the Capital, Mr Littlejohn may not get a chance to meet the man himself.
He said: “It would be nice to meet him and have a photograph taken, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. The most important thing is that he’s going to be there.”
Sir Tom Hunter said: “These are exceptional awards run by a young social entrepreneur who is an example to us all. The fact he has former president Clinton speaking at the event tells you all you need to know about the quality of this event.”
Ken Barclay, chair of the Scotland board and head of the corporate banking division in Scotland for RBS, the main sponsor of the awards, said: “This is the second year we have worked together with the SBA to highlight and reward some of the outstanding success stories of Scottish businesses over the last year.”
The closing date for entries to the awards, which are also sponsored by KPMG, Microsoft and Total Jobs, is March 29.
The awards take place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on June 21.
A prior engagement
Bill Clinton last visited Scotland in 2006 when he gave a speech about the dangers of global warming.
He warned 800 business people at The Thistle Hotel, Glasgow, that the dangers presented by climate change could “transform life on Earth” and pose a bigger challenge than the threat of terrorism.
However, his first visit to Scotland sounds to have been a far more carefree affair. They met in a library at Yale University in 1970.
Hillary Rodham – spotting Clinton staring at her – is said to have told him: “If you’re going to keep looking at me, and if I’m going to keep looking at you, we might as well be introduced.”
After popping the question in Edinburgh, Hillary is not thought to have given him her answer until after they left. They married on October 11, 1975.
Mrs Clinton – the US Secretary of State – returned to the Capital in 2001 to open an international conference for female parliamentarians.