It was an evening to remember -- a small dinner with former President Bill Clinton.

At dinner, just before his speech in the distinguished lecture series at Temple Sinai in Roslyn, the former president was gracious with his time and shared his thoughts. Speaking about his goals and the work of the Clinton Foundation, he was motivating. The problems facing our world may seem insurmountable to many others, but not to the man who can get through on the first try to virtually any corporate or state leader around the globe. He eagerly makes those calls because he knows how vital the work is.

In his opening letter with the most recent report on the work of the Clinton Foundation, the former president writes: "The good news is that we can all do something to make things better. All over the world, wherever poverty is being reduced, health care is being improved, the economy is more vibrant, and sustainable solutions are taking root -- these changes are being driven by networks of creative cooperation."

While it takes an extraordinary amount of dedication and hard work by so many to implement solutions to the global problems surrounding mankind's most basic needs, there's something magical about Clinton's focus on cooperation.

As a student of political science, and with my experience as a private sector business leader, I've learned that there can be no real cooperation without a common goal and the emotional commitment that goes with it.

To solve our problems, it's up to leaders of all kinds to build the foundation on which there can be common ground. If we put aside differences, reach across the aisle, and find ways to get the public and private sectors to work more closely together, there's little that can't be accomplished.

The starting point, though, is simply conversation.

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It begins there, quickly followed by a full and open airing of ideas, facts, figures and opinions. With respectful discussion -- even argument at times -- we can usually open a path through the most difficult issues.

President Clinton demonstrated that very concept during dinner. He spoke his views, but encouraged others to express theirs, eager for comment. He connected with the rest of us. When he spoke, he was passionate. And when he listened, he genuinely wanted to hear.

Most would agree that it's just this kind of conversation -- face-to-face or across a table -- that continues to be the most critical first step to building cooperation and creating common ground.

And, in today's online world, social media are more than ever potent forms of conversation to keep the dialogue going, encouraging frank communication and building excitement. Thumb typing on mobile devices and tapping on digital screens create immediate reactions.

Online tools enable idea-sharing in a captivating way that many find personal. Social media can foster understanding and create consensus that, later, can serve as building blocks toward common goals and action. Billions of people throughout the world use social media each day, according to some estimates. Think of the possibilities to motivate far and wide.

These kinds of connections are a powerful force for encouraging people to embrace new ideas, accept change, solve problems and, in Clinton's words, ensure "creative cooperation."

That dinner with President Clinton was a reminder of both the opportunity and of what can be accomplished by leaders sophisticated in the art of conversation . . . in person and online.

Chris Komisarjevsky, retired worldwide chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, lives in Atlantic Beach.