Cover image for My life
Title:
My life
Author:
Clinton, Bill, 1946-
Personal Author:
Edition:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
New York : Random House Large Print, [2004]

©2004
Physical Description:
1537 pages, cxiii pages (large print) : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780375435195
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

President Bill Clinton'sMy Lifeis the strikingly candid portrait of a global leader who decided early in life to devote his intellectual and political gifts, and his extraordinary capacity for hard work, to serving the public. It shows us the progress of a remarkable American, who, through his own enormous energies and efforts, made the unlikely journey from Hope, Arkansas, to the White House--a journey fueled by an impassioned interest in the political process which manifested itself at every stage of his life: in college, working as an intern for Senator William Fulbright; at Oxford, becoming part of the Vietnam War protest movement; at Yale Law School, campaigning on the grassroots level for Democratic candidates; back in Arkansas, running for Congress, attorney general, and governor. We see his career shaped by his resolute determination to improve the life of his fellow citizens, an unfaltering commitment to civil rights, and an exceptional understanding of the practicalities of political life. We come to understand the emotional pressures of his youth--born after his father's death; caught in the dysfunctional relationship between his feisty, nurturing mother and his abusive stepfather, whom he never ceased to love and whose name he took; drawn to the brilliant, compelling Hillary Rodham, whom he was determined to marry; passionately devoted, from her infancy, to their daughter, Chelsea, and to the entire experience of fatherhood; slowly and painfully beginning to comprehend how his early denial of pain led him at times into damaging patterns of behavior. President Clinton's book is also the fullest, most concretely detailed, most nuanced account of a presidency ever written--encompassing not only the high points and crises but the way the presidency actually works: the day-to-day bombardment of problems, personalities, conflicts, setbacks, achievements. It is a testament to the positive impact on America and on the world of his work and his ideals. It is the gripping account of a president under concerted and unrelenting assault orchestrated by his enemies on the Far Right, and how he survived and prevailed. It is a treasury of moments caught alive, among them: • The ten-year-old boy watching the national political conventions on his family's new (and first) television set. • The young candidate looking for votes in the Arkansas hills and the local seer who tells him, "Anybody who would campaign at a beer joint in Joiner at midnight on Saturday night deserves to carry one box. . . . You'll win here. But it'll be the only damn place you win in this county." (He was right on both counts.) • The roller-coaster ride of the 1992 campaign. • The extraordinarily frank exchanges with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole. • The delicate manipulation needed to convince Rabin and Arafat to shake hands for the camera while keeping Arafat from kissing Rabin. • The cost, both public and private, of the scandal that threatened the presidency. Here is the life of a great national and international figure, revealed with all his talents and contradictions, told openly, directly, in his own completely recognizable voice. A unique book by a unique American. From the Hardcover edition.


Author Notes

William Jefferson Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe IV on August 19, 1946 in Hope, Arkansas. His father, an automobile parts salesman, was killed in a car accident three months before he was born. At the age of fifteen, Bill changed his name to that of his stepfather Roger's as a gesture of goodwill to both him and his mother. Clinton attended Hot Springs High School where he was very active in the student government, among other things. In 1963, Clinton was chosen to attend the American Legion Boys State, a government and leadership conference in Little Rock, where he was elected a senator and given the opportunity to go to Washington D. C. and meet President John F. Kennedy. Clinton attended Georgetown University after he graduated from high school, where he majored in International Studies. He interned for Senator William Fulbright of Arkansas, and with him became an opponent of the Vietnam War. Clinton won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford where he studied for two years before attending the University of Arkansas Law School. There he was issued a draft letter and joined ROTC, but was never called up since he received a high number for the draft lottery.

In 1970, Clinton entered Yale Law School and worked for George McGovern's presidential campaign in 1972. He graduated from Yale in 1973, and worked for a short time in D. C. as a staff attorney for the House Judiciary Committee. In 1974, Clinton entered his first political race, against Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt, losing to the Congressman by 2 percent. In 1976, he was elected Arkansas Attorney General and in '78 ran for Arkansas Governor, winning the race 63% to 37%. He lost the reelection two years later because of Cuban refugee issues, but regained the title in 1982, and held it till he became President in 1993.

Bill Clinton announced his run for President on October 3, 1991, and with Al Gore as his Vice President, took office on January 20, 1993 at the age of 46. He was one of the youngest men to hold the office of President and the first Democrat to be elected since 1976. As President, Clinton worked on health care reform, cut federal spending, created jobs, reduced the deficit and enacted the Assault Weapon Ban as part of the Crime Bill. He also helped Israel and Jordan achieve a peace treaty, enabled a peace accord between Israel and Palestine and contributed to the cease fire in Northern Ireland. Clinton stepped down from the Presidency in 2000 to make way for George W. Bush, and established himself in offices in Harlem, New York City, New York, while his wife was elected to the U.S. Senate, representing New York State.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It's clear that Bill Clinton wrote this book himself; his personality shines from every page. Those aspects of his character that people liked during his political career are much in evidence here: his optimism, his inquiring mind, and his prodigious grasp of issues. And all the things that raised the public's ire about him are present, too: his tendency to parse words and situations, his self-serving take on events, the wounded psyche that led to irresponsible behavior. It is also clear that Clinton saw this book as his opportunity to shape the debate about his legacy. At this task, he both succeeds and fails. Certainly, he gives a more complete picture of who he is and the forces that have shaped him. His description of his early years is perhaps the best part of the book. Readers see both the boy and the segregated southern society in which he came of age. Equally intriguing is his description of the tumultuous events during the Lewinsky years: he holds himself accountable for his actions but reserves his venom for Kenneth Starr. In between these compelling parts, however, the reader is confronted with a numbing cavalcade of names and events. Clinton also has the unfortunate habit of describing incidents and almost reflexively linking them to a future legislative effort (a neighbor's illness when he was a child led to health-care reform when he was president). It's also odd how delicately he treats certain people with whom he must have been extremely angry (the prostitute-loving pollster Dick Morris, for example). In the end, Clinton's life story probably will function like a supersized Rorschach test. Most readers will find just what they're looking for. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2004 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Former President William Jefferson Clinton's hotly anticipated 957-page doorstop of a memoir is much like its author?charismatic, longwinded, and, many might say, deeply flawed. The first Democratic president to be elected to a second term since FDR in 1936, Clinton has lived what is by any account an eventful, inspiring life. As explained in early passages notable for their frankness and humanity, Clinton, born to humble Arkansas roots, never knew his father. William Jefferson Blythe was killed in an automobile accident just months before his son's birth. Clinton adored his mother, Virginia, a nurse with a large, loving family and a harmless penchant for the racetrack. Difficulties began when Virginia married Roger Clinton, who struggled with alcohol and a violent temper. A turbulent home life and the vagaries of a segregated South, however, only pushed the gregarious Clinton to achieve. He became interested in politics at an early age. He wrote, debated, played the saxophone, and eventually made it to Georgetown and Oxford universities, a law practice, then to Little Rock and the governor's mansion, and eventually to the White House. Clinton's administration was equally dramatic. Domestically, he fought to balance the federal budget, presided over a government shutdown, and beat back a conservative cultural backlash. Diplomatically, Clinton skirmished with a bellicose Saddam Hussein, ended a genocidal crisis in Bosnia, accelerated the Mideast peace process until its eventual collapse, and began to deal with the budding threat posed by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. To top that off, he left office in 2000 amid the bizarre Bush/Gore electoral crisis. Of course, what Clinton is also remembered for are the scandals that plagued his efforts. Beginning with Gennifer Flowers in the 1992 campaign, to Whitewater, Travelgate, the FBI file scandal, Paula Jones and ultimately the Monica Lewinsky affair that led to his historic impeachment, Clinton endured what then First Lady Hillary Clinton termed a "vast right-wing conspiracy" to push him from office. The most interesting passages of Clinton's memoir reveal a simmering, deep animosity toward special prosecutor Ken Starr. Clinton defiantly blisters Starr as an unethical, overreaching partisan who illegally leaked details of his investigations to the press; exceeded his authority; humiliated, bankrupted and jailed innocent people for not playing ball; and served only to ring up huge legal bills for the Clintons, their staff and supporters. Certainly, Clinton's memoir has the raw material for a blockbuster book. But the sheer deluge of information is mind-numbing. Rather than expose the hurricane's eye of a remarkable life and an eventful presidency, the book instead blurs into an unrelenting blizzard of names, dates, campaigns, speeches, events, handshakes, tangential observations, memories, meetings, cities and towns, and anecdotes. The result is a narrative that obscures any meaningful measure of Clinton's true character and values. Save for his strong feelings about Starr, Clinton offers only brief personal assessments of the colorful personalities with whom he crossed paths, including his wife, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and James Carville, opponents like George Bush, Bob Dole and Ross Perot, or world leaders such as Boris Yeltsin, and Yasser Arafat. Monica Lewinsky also escapes any meaningful scrutiny. Most frustratingly, Clinton, while admitting mistakes, offers no deep personal introspection. In an excerpt from a high school essay, Clinton wrote that he was a "living paradox," who "detests selfishness but sees it in the mirror everyday." That passage marks the most insightful stroke of self-analysis in the book. Yet while lacking immediacy, the book nevertheless manages a certain gravitas, if only for being a painstakingly thorough act of recollection. Given the fevered "tell-all" anticipation surrounding the book's publication, however, it is certain to disappoint many readers even as it sells an astonishing number of copies. Some of that disappointment, however, was inevitable. After all, My Life is a presidential memoir, a historically self-serving category of autobiography alone unto itself and very much an extension of presidential politics--a profession that is never "tell-all." Even more tricky, Clinton's wife, Hillary, now the junior Senator from New York, is very much still in politics. When matched against other presidential memoirs, though, Clinton's scores favorably, certainly exceeding the flaccid efforts of his most recent predecessors, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Still, Clinton, a popular, gifted orator with a clear mastery of public policy, has missed, or, perhaps, passed on, a golden opportunity to offer a truly resonant portrait of his embattled presidency or an enduring political vision. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.


Library Journal Review

For the millions of baby boomers who have shared most of Clinton's history, this book will be a reminder of the many events we have experienced in the last half-century. The former President details events of his early life, his years at Georgetown University, and his experiences at Oxford. Throughout, he offers candid portraits of his life and shares fond memories of family and friends. He also reveals some of the darker moments: from his secret life as the child of an abusive stepfather to the ongoing attacks of the anti-Clinton faction that led to the Starr investigation. Clinton narrates in his usual manner, as if he has just dropped in for a chat or is reminiscing with friends. He has never been the object of ambivalence, and here he is finally getting to tell his side of the story. A trip through interesting times, My Life is highly recommended for all libraries.-Theresa Connors, Arkansas Tech Univ., Russellville (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One: Early on the morning of August 19, 1946, I was born under a clear sky after a violent summer storm to a widowed mother in the Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, a town of about six thousand in southwest Arkansas, thirty-three miles east of the Texas border at Texarkana. My mother named me William Jefferson Blythe III after my father, William Jefferson Blythe Jr., one of nine children of a poor farmer in Sherman, Texas, who died when my father was seventeen. According to his sisters, my father always tried to take care of them, and he grew up to be a handsome, hardworking, fun-loving man. He met my mother at Tri-State Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1943, when she was training to be a nurse. Many times when I was growing up, I asked Mother to tell me the story of their meeting, courting, and marriage. He brought a date with some kind of medical emergency into the ward where she was working, and they talked and flirted while the other woman was being treated. On his way out of the hospital, he touched the finger on which she was wearing her boyfriend's ring and asked her if she was married. She stammered "no"--she was single. The next day he sent the other woman flowers and her heart sank. Then he called Mother for a date, explaining that he always sent flowers when he ended a relationship. Two months later, they were married and he was off to war. He served in a motor pool in the invasion of Italy, repairing jeeps and tanks. After the war, he returned to Hope for Mother and they moved to Chicago, where he got back his old job as a salesman for the Manbee Equipment Company. They bought a little house in the suburb of Forest Park but couldn't move in for a couple of months, and since Mother was pregnant with me, they decided she should go home to Hope until they could get into the new house. On May 17, 1946, after moving their furniture into their new home, my father was driving from Chicago to Hope to fetch his wife. Late at night on Highway 60 outside of Sikeston, Missouri, he lost control of his car, a 1942 Buick, when the right front tire blew out on a wet road. He was thrown clear of the car but landed in, or crawled into, a drainage ditch dug to reclaim swampland. The ditch held three feet of water. When he was found, after a two-hour search, his hand was grasping a branch above the waterline. He had tried but failed to pull himself out. He drowned, only twenty-eight years old, married two years and eight months, only seven months of which he had spent with Mother. That brief sketch is about all I ever really knew about my father. All my life I have been hungry to fill in the blanks, clinging eagerly to every photo or story or scrap of paper that would tell me more of the man who gave me life. When I was about twelve, sitting on my uncle Buddy's porch in Hope, a man walked up the steps, looked at me, and said, "You're Bill Blythe's son. You look just like him." I beamed for days. In 1974, I was running for Congress. It was my first race and the local paper did a feature story on my mother. She was at her regular coffee shop early in the morning discussing the article with a lawyer friend when one of the breakfast regulars she knew only casually came up to her and said, "I was there, I was the first one at the wreck that night." He then told Mother what he had seen, including the fact that my father had retained enough consciousness or survival instinct to try to claw himself up and out of the water before he died. Mother thanked him, went out to her car and cried, then dried her tears and went to work. In 1993, on Father's Day, my first as President, the Washington Post ran a long investigative story on my father, which was followed over the next two months by other investigative pieces by the Associated Press and many smaller papers. The stories confirmed the things my mother and I knew. They also turned up a lot we didn't know, including the fact that my father had probably been married three times before he met Mother, and apparently had at least two more children. My father's other son was identified as Leon Ritzenthaler, a retired owner of a janitorial service, from northern California. In the article, he said he had written me during the '92 campaign but had received no reply. I don't remember hearing about his letter, and considering all the other bullets we were dodging then, it's possible that my staff kept it from me. Or maybe the letter was just misplaced in the mountains of mail we were receiving. Anyway, when I read about Leon, I got in touch with him and later met him and his wife, Judy, during one of my stops in northern California. We had a happy visit and since then we've corresponded in holiday seasons. He and I look alike, his birth certificate says his father was mine, and I wish I'd known about him a long time ago. Somewhere around this time, I also received information confirming news stories about a daughter, Sharon Pettijohn, born Sharon Lee Blythe in Kansas City in 1941, to a woman my father later divorced. She sent copies of her birth certificate, her parents' marriage license, a photo of my father, and a letter to her mother from my father asking about "our baby" to Betsey Wright, my former chief of staff in the governor's office. I'm sorry to say that, for whatever reason, I've never met her. This news breaking in 1993 came as a shock to Mother, who by then had been battling cancer for some time, but she took it all in stride. She said young people did a lot of things during the Depression and the war that people in another time might disapprove of. What mattered was that my father was the love of her life and she had no doubt of his love for her. Whatever the facts, that's all she needed to know as her own life moved toward its end. As for me, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it all, but given the life I've led, I could hardly be surprised that my father was more complicated than the idealized pictures I had lived with for nearly half a century. In 1994, as we headed for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of D-day, several newspapers published a story on my father's war record, with a snapshot of him in uniform. Shortly afterward, I received a letter from Umberto Baron of Netcong, New Jersey, recounting his own experiences during the war and after. He said that he was a young boy in Italy when the Americans arrived, and that he loved to go to their camp, where one soldier in particular befriended him, giving him candy and showing him how engines worked and how to repair them. He knew him only as Bill. After the war, Baron came to the United States, and, inspired by what he had learned from the soldier who called him "Little GI Joe," he opened his own garage and started a family. He told me he had lived the American dream, with a thriving business and three children. He said he owed so much of his success in life to that young soldier, but hadn't had the opportunity to say good-bye then, and had often wondered what had happened to him. Then, he said, "On Memorial Day of this year, I was thumbing through a copy of the New York Daily News with my morning coffee when suddenly I felt as if I was struck by lightning. There in the lower left-hand corner of the paper was a photo of Bill. I felt chills to learn that Bill was none other than the father of the President of the United States." In 1996, the children of one of my father's sisters came for the first time to our annual family Christmas party at the White House and brought me a gift: the condolence letter my aunt had received from her congressman, the great Sam Rayburn, after my father died. It's just a short form letter and appears to have been signed with the autopen of the day, but I hugged that letter with all the glee of a six-year-old boy getting his first train set from Santa Claus. I hung it in my private office on the second floor of the White House, and looked at it every night. Shortly after I left the White House, I was boarding the USAir shuttle in Washington for New York when an airline employee stopped me to say that his stepfather had just told him he had served in the war with my father and had liked him very much. I asked for the old vet's phone number and address, and the man said he didn't have it but would get it to me. I'm still waiting, hoping there will be one more human connection to my father. At the end of my presidency, I picked a few special places to say goodbye and thanks to the American people. One of them was Chicago, where Hillary was born; where I all but clinched the Democratic nomination on St. Patrick's Day 1992; where many of my most ardent supporters live and many of my most important domestic initiatives in crime, welfare, and education were proved effective; and, of course, where my parents went to live after the war. I used to joke with Hillary that if my father hadn't lost his life on that rainy Missouri highway, I would have grown up a few miles from her and we probably never would have met. My last event was in the Palmer House Hotel, scene of the only photo I have of my parents together, taken just before Mother came back to Hope in 1946. After the speech and the good-byes, I went into a small room where I met a woman, Mary Etta Rees, and her two daughters. She told me she had grown up and gone to high school with my mother, then had gone north to Indiana to work in a war industry, married, stayed, and raised her children. Then she gave me another precious gift: the letter my twenty-three-year-old mother had written on her birthday to her friend, three weeks after my father's death, more than fifty-four years earlier. It was vintage Mother. In her beautiful hand, she wrote of her heartbreak and her determination to carry on: "It seemed almost unbelievable at the time but you see I am six months pregnant and the thought of our baby keeps me going and really gives me the whole world before me." My mother left me the wedding ring she gave my father, a few moving stories, and the sure knowledge that she was loving me for him too. My father left me with the feeling that I had to live for two people, and that if I did it well enough, somehow I could make up for the life he should have had. And his memory infused me, at a younger age than most, with a sense of my own mortality. The knowledge that I, too, could die young drove me both to try to drain the most out of every moment of life and to get on with the next big challenge. Even when I wasn't sure where I was going, I was always in a hurry. Excerpted from My Life by Bill Clinton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.