TEMPE, Ariz. -- Former President Bill Clinton presided over a star-studded panel Friday evening, voicing his preference that the United States maintain control of the Internet's domain name system, which will soon be ceded to an international body.

Clinton appeared on stage for a Clinton Global Initiative event with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, among others, to discuss how social change could come about through online engagement.

"Whatever you think our country has done wrong, the United States has been by far the country most committed to keeping the Internet free and open and uninterrupted," Clinton said at Arizona State University.

The former president expressed concern over the United States' recent announcement that the Internet domain system, currently controlled an agency of the Department of Commerce, will soon be ceded to an international agency that will be assembled after negotiations.

Added Clinton, "We've kept the Internet free and open, and that's a great tribute to the United States."

Wales, who said denying access to the information of the Internet was akin to a human rights violation, said he frequently tries to explain to citizens overseas why American control of the system was not a bad thing.

"There is the First Amendment in the U.S., and a culture of free expression," he said.

The panel was preceded by an appearance by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called on the 1,200 students assembled to become the "participation generation."

The event also featured some jocular interactions between Bill Clinton and McCain. Clinton said that McCain, who voted for the 42nd president's impeachment, was a "good friend of Hillary's and mine, although we permit him to deny that at election time."

McCain later joked back, praising Bill Clinton's long history of public service, saying it was remarkable that he was still working when he could be back in Arkansas, "probably catching catfish or something."