Thursday, November 18, 2004

A Bridge To Something...

This morning was not much different than most. Got up at the regular time, got the kids ready for school, dropped son2 off at the day care and then we departed from routine.

Son1 and I headed into town for the dedication of the Clinton Library.

We parked at Alltel Arena and caught a shuttle bus across the river. The bus dropped us off right next to the entrance to the Clinton Center. Unfortunately, we had to enter about 5 blocks away on the other side. It was just a bit moist so we took rain jackets (I had a pair of rain pants in the pocket of mine) and headed over to Clinton Avenue (It'll always be Markham Street to me...). The line was already back nearly to Commerce Street (about 4 or 5 blocks from the gate) and we got in the back of it. Busses were steadily emptying people out across the compound and they were showing up in droves. It wasn't long until the line was circling back up Clinton Avenue about 3 blocks. Being able to step forward a foot or two felt like an accomplishment. The festivities don't start until 10:00, right?

By the time we reached the Terminal Building (about 2 blocks from the gate) it was 9:45. The line was quite orderly and moving pretty steadily by this time. When we got to the gate just under the freeway it turned mostly into a mob. Imagine trying to get through the metal detectors and searches at the airport with no roped off corridors.

It had started to rain steadily by then and I put on my rain pants. We finally get through the gate and are directed to seats on the "floor" just behind the congressional delegation section (Clinton thanked President Bush for sending 4 jets down with them.)

We found two seats and sat down. I overheard the two women to my left talking about standing up for Clinton and one of them said, "but I'm not going to stand up when Bush speaks." I turned to her and said, "Yes, we certainly wouldn't want to stand up for the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, would we?" She said, "not this one!" To which I replied, "at least he stands for something." She didn't speak to me the rest of the time, though she was quite rude to the woman sitting in front of me ssshhhhing her when she dared speak to her daughter next to her.

The rain is falling quite heavily at this point. We watched the Lyon College bagpipe band, the Art Porter Singers, Hot Springs H.S. Marching Band, River City Men's Chorus, African Drum Ballet, Phil Driscoll, Rita Dove and the Philander Smith Collegiate Choir.

Afterwards we saw the announcement of Al and Tipper Gore, all of the presidential families, state government bigwigs, and the diplomatic corps - seems like Bill has lots of friends from Columbia...(sniff)

Then we saw Chelsea Clinton (I remember thinking on election night '92, "Amy carter is watching this at home and going, YESSSSS! Finally a girl uglier than me in the White House!") And out came Laura Bush, Billary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter.

Hail to the Chief plays and out comes Dubya Bush, Billy C., GHW, and Jimmah. Skip Rutherford made welcoming comments and the color guard advanced the flags and we pledged allegiance and sang the national anthem.

After what seemed an endless parade of folks I never heard of (do you know Deborah Bredbenner?) all of whom son1 pointed out "talked real slow," we finally got to see a real live president, Jimmy Carter, speak. It was a very nice speach from an otherwise lackluster president.

George H. W. Bush spoke next and gave glowing praise to Mr. Clinton followed by his son,the President of the United States. Clinton seemed almost angry during all of Dubya's speach. I couldn't tell if he was tired, if the constant pouring rain was getting to him or if he was genuinely pissed-off. Hillary kept trying to get him to laugh or respond to certain lines, but he just didn't.

Bono was his usual self-absorbed self and the three songs he did with The Edge seemed to go on forever. I'm getting really cold and the rain is starting to soak through my rain pants in places where I'm sitting on them. Son1 is soaked through and shivering.

Almost to the end of Bill's "Bridge to the Future" speach, the boy and I slipped out. He was having trouble keeping up with me because he said his blue jeans weighed about 30 pounds. We grabbed a trolley across the river and bee-lined to the car.

Cranked the heater up and rushed home to warm, dry clothes and shoes. Damn, I sure hated to miss seeing Chelsea give the keys to the house trailer library to the Archivist of the United States. But a good meal of Phat Mee and Coconut and Lemon Grass Chicken at a local Thai restaurant made us both get over it.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Southern by the Grace of God

What’s it like to be Southern?

Not to just live in the South, but to actually be Southern. There’s been many stories and songs written about it but I truly think it’s an exclusive club. No matter how long you live here, no matter how much you learn, there’s no substitute for being “born and raised.”

And maybe the current crop won’t get the real experience. It’s hard for me to imagine moms today letting their children run the neighborhood clad only in a pair of shorts. Brown as a nut, the sun was never too bright or too hot. The feel of soft tar on the road between your toes had a burn that immediately brought you dancing back to the lawn, but laughing at the pleasure of the experience.

Going to the neighborhood store for your mother, and carrying a gallon of milk back in a glass jug. Bacon and eggs and biscuits for breakfast, or corn fritters. Grits - not wimpy with sugar, but slathered in butter with ground black pepper and lots of salt. Fried okra and squash and green tomatoes sliced thin and fried with a cornmeal coating. Hot tamale pie.

There were always woods. Some deep, rutted with old car trails and trash piles and others just a few acres left standing. All were inviting, cool, fresh smelling places where you could find box turtles and lizards. And every neighborhood had its own fort. Ticks and chiggers were mild nuisances that were dealt with by tweezers, fingernail polish remover and calamine lotion. And the mosquito was the state bird.

The girls are so much prettier in the south. We all grew up crazy about them and why not? If you haven’t had the experience, don’t even try to imagine.

I learned to drive on a Ford tractor, and I had friends who got their first car at fifteen. We grew up with guns and fishing tackle and preferred sleeping under the stars to a tent any day of the week. Of course that doesn’t count the tents that you built between chairs in your living room to camp in.

I grew up in a neighborhood that was integrated before the 1960’s and we didn’t know any different. I never found out that I was supposed to be prejudiced until I read about it in northern magazines. Even then, I didn’t let those Yankees tell me who I could be friends with. And I still don’t.

There’s no end to the delightful memories of growing up and living in the south. I guess that’s why there’s so many songs and books about it. I can’t remember hearing any songs about being northern…

Friday, November 12, 2004

An Email From Bill Clinton

Chappaqua, New York
November 12, 2004

Dear Friend,

Next Thursday, November 18, the Clinton Presidential Center will open in Little Rock, Arkansas. Newsweek calls it “stunning,” and for people living today and generations to come, my hope is that it will be a vibrant place of history and learning.
The Center includes my library, the archives of the Clinton-Gore Administration and the Clinton School of Public Service. It will also be a home for the Clinton Foundation and its mission of good works here in America and around the world.

I created the Clinton Foundation not only to build the Clinton Presidential Center but also to help build a more integrated global community, one in which we recognize that, while our differences make life interesting, our common humanity matters more.

And so the Clinton Foundation is at work in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx helping small businesses survive and grow. It is promoting racial, religious and ethnic reconciliation in places like Northern Ireland and the Middle East. The Foundation supports citizen service programs in America and South Africa, and perhaps most significantly, the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative is helping countries in the developing world obtain and distribute life-saving medicine to people suffering from AIDS.

This coming week will be an exciting one not only for me and my family, but for the people of Little Rock and Arkansas, as well as thousands of people I was lucky enough to have by my side during my campaigns and my time in office. I look forward to the opening of the Center, with its thousands of artifacts and millions of documents, and I hope its high-tech exhibits will prove to be both engaging and enlightening to people who stop and visit through the years.

I am especially proud that, by locating the Clinton Presidential Center where we did, we have helped encourage more than $700 million in economic investment and development in Little Rock. It’s the least I can do for a community and a state that meant so much to me throughout my life. And for the country that put its faith in me for eight years, I am proud to be able to turn over the keys to the Clinton Presidential Center on the day it opens. I am grateful, too, to the many thousands of people whose charitable donations made it happen.

If you aren’t able to be with us next week for the grand opening events, I hope you will visit the Clinton Presidential Center sometime soon. And in the meantime, please check out our website at It contains a wealth of information about my Administration, the Center and the work of the Clinton Foundation around the world.

Thank you for your support. God bless you and may God bless America.

With best regards,

Bill Clinton

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Every Living President's Wife

Got my tickets to the Clinton Library Dedication next week and a stunning job of printing they are. I hope that we're able to keep them as mementos when we go. Pray for nice weather as it will be outside.

This, of course, is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and for the city of Little Rock. Every living president, every living president's wife and their children will converge on our city for this event. Dignitaries and luminaries from around the world along with the great unwashed such as me. All will be here to witness the dedication of this facility.

As I go home each afternoon, I see the sign on the top of the library -- 9 more days until opening. The bleachers have been erected in the parking lot out front.

And yes, it does look like a house trailer on stilts. Rumor has it that this was a dig at the people of Arkansas by the architect. I don't know about that, but I'll tell you this: I know of one person for sure who will be at the dedication who never voted for Bill Clinton. Not even once. Not even for Attorney General.