Less than two weeks after electrifying the Democratic National Convention, former U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke in Vancouver Saturday night – at a fundraising concert for the Sarah McLachlan School of Music – but avoided any mention of the U.S. election campaign, beyond a lighthearted reference to politics being "a contact sport."
Instead, Mr. Clinton – who spoke for less than four minutes – praised Ms. McLachlan and her school, and stressed the importance of an education in music.
"I think it is very unlikely that I would have ever become president had I not been in school music from the time I was nine until the time I was 17. It taught me discipline and creativity. It made me see the world in different ways. It made me understand things in different ways," said Mr. Clinton, wearing a light-coloured suit.
The former president said Ms. McLachlan had told him that the event – with a line-up that includes Bryan Adams, Stevie Nicks and Ms. McLachlan herself – has raised enough money to cover the school's budget for an entire year.
"You are literally, by contributing here, increasing the capacity of young Canadians to learn and grow, to live their dreams," he told the crowd, which cheered and shouted "Obama!" and "Four more years!"
Mr. Clinton, who famously played the saxophone on late night television on The Arsenio Hall Show in what turned out to be an important moment of the 1992 presidential campaign, did not perform on sax – or even hum a few bars – onstage Saturday.
But he did sing Ms. McLachlan's praises.
"For 20 years I asked Sarah McLachlan to help me. She did. She did it when I was up and she did it when I was down. And in politics – it's a contact sport, in case you haven't noticed – and you can't play the whole round without getting knocked down every now and then. This is, I believe, the only thing she ever asked me to do for her. And I'm honoured to fly from New York to be here tonight because I believe in her, I believe in this program. I am grateful to you for helping her."
Ms. McLachlan, who has taken part in events for the Clinton Foundation, asked Mr. Clinton to return the favour a few months ago. Over dinner at an event in Palm Springs, she told him about her school – which offers free music programs for underserved and at-risk youth. "He was very kind and said 'well if there's anything I can help with, you've been very good to me,'" Ms. McLachlan said after a sound check at Stanley Park on Friday. "And I said 'well ,' before I could stop myself, 'can you come to my event? And be part of that?' And he said yes."
When asked by The Globe and Mail whether there was any concern about Mr. Clinton leaving the U.S. for Canada during this heated election campaign – even for a few hours – Ms. McLachlan said "I think perhaps he said yes in a microcosm all those months ago, without realizing that he was going to be the most popular man in the world."