Make your own free website on Tripod.com
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag
US Flag


PRESIDENT WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON

Bill Clinton Bill Clinton

President Bill Clinton is referred to by many as America's first Black President, because of his administration's especially close relationship with the African-American community. He was widely embraced by minorities across the board not only for promoting them to key government positions, but also for his pro-civil rights policies. Interestingly enough in 1963, then just 16, he was one of the nationwide students selected to visit the White House, where he got a chance to shake hands with his idol, President John F. Kennedy. It was after his meeting with JFK that he started looking up to a career in public service. Both Clinton and JFK will be remembered as strong civil rights Presidents, and especially as it relates to African-Americans. JFK however in my opinion deserves much more credit because he did it way back in the 1960's when it was more costly to both his person and Presidency. Plus he came from an extremely priviledged background and its just amazing how he still identified with the poor in America. Clinton grew up poor so one could argue that it was easy for him to empathize with the black plight. Or maybe it was just the two Presidents' Irish heritage.

President Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19th 1946 to William Jefferson Blythe II and Virginia Dell Cassidy in the small U.S. farming town of Hope, Arkansas. He was the only child of Blythe II and Virginia, who all reports indicate were poor. He never had a chance to see his biological father because he was born 3 months after he died in a car accident. Prior to his death, his father had been a travelling salesman, selling heavy machinery equipment. His job took him from state to state but he was actually stationed in Chicago, where he and Virginia lived. Virginia had only moved back to her parents' home in Hope, Arkansas to deliver Blythe III, or Billy as he came to be called. Soon after giving birth to Billy, Virginia left for New Orleans, Louisiana, to attend Nursing School, leaving Billy in the care of his grandparents, Eldridge and Edith Cassidy. From his own accounts, his grandma Edith was a very forceful woman who strove to get the best out of people. He credits his grandma with his ambitions to make something out of his life because of the way she pushed him to get educated. Edith herself had not been privilegded enough to benefit from a descent education yet she still knew the importance of it. She was a very positive influence on the young Billy.

When Billy was 4, his mother Virginia returned to Hope and remarried a local car dealership owner called Roger Clinton. His name thus changed to William Jefferson Clinton, or Bill Clinton, eventhough to his friends he was still simply Billy. Billy and his mom had a very rough time with Roger because he was reportedly abusive and an alcoholic too. He was also an excessive gambler too. When Billy was 7, his family moved to a bigger city called Hot Springs, where he enrolled at a Parochial school called St. Johns. At 4th grade he transferred to Ramble Public School. It is important to note here that Arkansas has held a record for a long time of having some of the worst public schools in America. So it should come as no surprise that Billy too was disgusted at the state of affairs at Ramble. In fact some have argued that it was for this reason that he later made improving public education one of his key ticket items when he ran for Arkansas Governor.

In spite of all the drama he witnessed under his step-father, reports have it that Billy was a very good natured kid, who was very well liked by his schoolmates. He blossomed in elementary school, thanks to the strict discipline his grandma Edith instilled in him. After completing his elementary school education, he enrolled at Hot Springs High School where he continued to blossom. His leadership qualities started coming out in high school when he was selected President of his class during both his Sophomore and Junior years. He also took a keen interest in Music while in High School, becoming a very good saxophone player. Hot Springs High School Principal Johnnie Mae Mackey was already a political figure in Arkansas, and she was a close ally of then Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. She is the one who got the young Bill Clinton interested in politics. She helped Clinton enter the Boys' State, a Leadership Summer Camp for premier students interested in politics. Each state in the U.S. conducted its own camp and in the summer of 1963, the best students nationwide were selected to visit Washington, DC, for a convention dubbed the Boys' Nation. Bill Clinton was one of those selected. During the Boys' Nation Convention, the 16 year old Bill Clinton got a chance to shake hands with his idol JFK, an experience which inspired him to throw himself into public service. Sadly for him, and the world however, his idol JFK was assassinated later that same year.

Bill Clinton graduated from Hot Springs High School in 1964 and then proceeded to Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington, DC, to study International Affairs. His main reason for moving to DC, was to get a working experience with politicians on Capitol Hill. In 1966, while still at Georgetown, he got a part-time job working with the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then under the chairmanship of Arkansas Senator J.William Fulbright. This gave Clinton the much needed political experience eventhough Senator Fulbright's less than stellar record on civil rights bothered him. Bill Clinton graduated from Georgetown University in 1968, and secured a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University in England. He attended Oxford for 2 years after which he came back to the States to attend Law School. In the Fall of 1971, he enrolled at Yale Law School, riding on a full scholarship. It was at Yale that he met his future wife Hillary Rodham. The two had quite different backgrounds, Hillary coming from a wealthy Chicago suburb and Bill from poor rural Arkansas. They had one thing in common though which made them inseparable; both of them were full of ambition and passion.

In 1972 both Bill and Hillary worked for South Dakota Senator George McGovern's Campaign for Presidency. Eventhough McGovern lost to Richard Nixon, his campaign made Bill Clinton a recognized figure within the Democratic Party, and especially in his home state Arkansas. This together with his excellent academic exploits, made him a rising star within the Arkansas Democratic Party circles. Both Bill and Hillary earned their Law Degrees from Yale in 1973, after which they were both offered high profile jobs in Washington, DC, as counsels for the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee that was investigating the now infamous Watergate scandal. This scandal led to the the disgraceful resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, a first in U.S. history. Hillary took up the DC job offer but Bill Clinton decided to go back to Arkansas where he took a relatively low key job, teaching at the University of Arkansas Law School in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He was only 27 years old when he took up the job. He soon became interested in Arkansas politics and on February 25th 1974, announced his candidacy for a U.S. House of Representatives seat to represent Arkansas' 3rd District. He figured this would take him back to Washington, and closer to Hillary.

Bill Clinton easily prevailed in the Democratic Party primaries after which he was pitted against Republican incumbent John Hammerschmidt, a very popular Congressman and a close ally of President Richard Nixon. In the summer of 1974, Hillary Rodham moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas to help out in Bill Clinton's campaign. She also made plans to settle in Arkansas by taking the Arkansas bar exams and accepting a position at the University of Arkansas Law School Faculty. Since Hammerschmidt was a close ally of President Nixon, Bill Clinton hammered him on the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam war crisis. However when President Nixon finally resigned on August 9th 1974, Clinton ran out of hammering points and Hammerschmidt regained his footing. The incumbent ended up defeating Bill Clinton with 51% of the vote. But given Hammerschmidt's popularity prior to Bill Clinton's challenge, even he realised that the young Clinton had given him a run for his money. After his loss in the Congressional elections, Clinton returned to the University of Arkansas Law School faculty where he joined Hillary. On October 11th 1975 the two wed at a private ceremony only attended by close friends and relatives.

In 1976 Bill Clinton decided to run for Arkansas Attorney-General position. The State's top law enforcement office was considered a natural stepping stone to the Governorship. The incumbent, Jim Guy Tucker was relinquishing his post to run for Congress. Clinton easily prevailed in the Democratic Primaries and went on to win the Attorney-General position unopposed. The Democratic Party was so powerful in Arkansas that Republicans didnt even bother to challenge Clinton. With no Republican challenger and his A-G position all but sealed, Clinton took up the job of coordinating Jimmy Carter's Arkansas campaign for U.S. President in 1976. His role as Chief Carter campaigner in Arkansas increased his standing among Democrats nationally and in Arkansas and soon his name was being echoed as an emerging star within the party. If Carter won, Clinton's stock in Arkansas would increase tremendously, making it easy for him to win the Arkansas Governorship in 1978. In 1976, Carter went on to become U.S. President and Bill Clinton Arkansas Attorney-General. In 1978, when incumbent Arkansas Governor David Pryor left to run for U.S. Senate, Bill Clinton became the Governor of Arkansas. Only 32 years old then, he became the nations youngest Governor.

The theme of Clinton's Governorship was Education and Heath Reform. His ideas on education reform stemmed from his nasty public school experiences. He introduced Bills in Arkansas to require testing of all school teachers, or what was called the standard competency exam. He also planned to increase spending on education and support the increase by raisng taxes on gasoline and licencing fees of cars and trucks. He also planned to restructure the healthcare system, making it more accessible to the poor. Though his plans generally sounded attarctive on paper, they met stiff opposition from a lot of Arkansans. His standard competency exanm for example was fiercely criticized by veteran teachers as a way of weeding them out. He thus lost the critical support of teachers' unions. His plans to raise taxes on gasoline and licencing fees also fell disproportionately on the poor and middle income Arkansans, who also happened to be the bulk of his supporters. His plans to reform Healthcare met stiff resistance from Doctors and Healthcare professionals intent on maintaining the status quo. It thus became apparent that midway through his 2 year term, his job was in trouble. It was not surprising therefore in 1980, when Clinton lost his re-election bid to Republican Frank White, who capitalized on Arkansans' grievances over his education and healthcare reforms. This defeat apparently devastated the young Bill Clinton, who sources say even tolerated the idea of walking away from politics altogether. It brought back the sad memories of his father, who died quite young with lots of unrealized dreams. One positive thing however happened for the Clintons in 1980, which was the birth of their only child Chelsea Victoria Clinton on February 27th.

But the Comeback Kid, as Clinton later came to be called, had other ideas. In 1982, he surprisingly challenged Governor Frank White to reclaim his job. His message to Arkansans-- he had made a young man's mistake and that he was now a wiser man, more capable of dealing with the problems of Arkansas. His message resonated with the forgiving Arkansans, who decided to give him a second chance by handing him back the Governorship. He thus became the first person in Arkansas history to reclaim the Governor's seat after losing it. In his new tenure as Governor, he appointed a lot of African-Americans to State Boards and Commissions than all previous Governors combined. He went on to be re-elected Governor in 1984 and 1986, after which the Governor's tenure was changed to 4 years. Knowing that he didnt have to face re-election till 1990, he began stomping for Democrats against George Bush in the 1988 Presidential elections.

Eventhough there was pressure from some Democrats that he run for President in 1988, he chose to forego it, saying he needed to spend more time with his wife and still young daughter Chelsea. This pro-family stance seriously endeared him to voters, who knew very well that 1992 was his year of running. In 1990 Bill Clinton was re-elected Governor of Arkansas giving him 4 more years in office. The most important thing about this win however, as that it gave him 2 quiet years within which he could plan his 1992 Presidential onslaught. On October 3rd 1991, standing on the steps of the Arkansas State House alongside his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea, Governor William Jefferson Clinton announced his intention to seek the Democratic Party nomination for President. After securing the Democratic Party nomination, he chose Tennessee Senator Albert Gore, Jr. to be his running mate. The 1992 Presidential race thus boiled down to a battle featuring Democrat Bill Clinton, Republican incumbent President George Bush and Independent Texas Billionaire Ros Perot.

The initial stages of the Presidential race played in President Bush's favour because of his incumbency. But when he faced a rare challenge in the Republican Primaries from Patrick Buchanan, cracks in his camp were exposed. This coupled with the general economic downturn during his first term began to pull down his poll numbers. His "poor" handling of the American economy could not hold his stellar record on foreign policy, which among others included the peaceful end to the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviets, and success in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Bill Clinton, smelling blood from the Bush camp after their foreign policy record had been neutralized, began pandering to the American middle-class, who were very angry at President Bush for "ignoring" them yet they formed the biggest chunk of the electorate. When election day came, Clinton/Gore triumphed, capturing 43% of the popular vote, with Bush getting 37% and Perot 19%. Clinton/Gore won 378 electoral votes while Bush got 168, and Perot none. So in November 1992, then only 46 years old, William Jefferson Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States. Little Billy from rural Arkansas had actually risen up to become President of the United States, the 3rd youngest U.S. President after Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy!!!

President Clinton's cabinet continued with the tradition he had established as Governor of Arkansas in that it was a racially diverse one to reflect America's multicultural society. Clinton also appointed more women to top positions than any previous President in American history. He for example appointed a woman, Dr. Jocelyn Elders as Surgeon General, Michael Espy, an African-American Congressman as Secretary of Agriculture, Hispanic Americans Henry Cisneros and Fedrico Pena as Housing & Urban Development Secretary and Transportation Secretary respectively, a woman Janet Reno as Attorney-General, and an African-American Ron Brown as Secretary of Commerce. President Clinton's first term was however rocky to say the least. Among his early setbacks were his proposals to allow gays to serve freely in the military. He did this both as a Civil Rights issue and as payback for the gay population that had supported him overwhelmingly in his election bid. President Clinton's proposals met with stiff challenge from military brass who felt it would hamper morale in the forces. Clinton sensing a backlash, stepped away from this issue, instead settling for the long-held military policy of dont ask dont tell. This basically meant that a gay person could serve freely in the military as long as he didnt come out in the open and say he was. President Clinton at that time said this was "not a perfect solution but an honourable compromise."

Another setback came in October 1993 with the Black Hawk Down incident in Mogadishu, Somalia, where some 18 U.S. troops had been killed while trying to capture Somali warlord Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed. Eventhough the troops had been sent into Somalia by Clinton's predecessor President Bush, the pressure was now put on him to bring the troops back home. Clinton who finally brought the troops back home, still suffered a huge political cost including but not limited to the resignation of his Defense Secretary Les Aspin. A personal setback followed on January 6th 1994 when his mother Virginia passed away. President Clinton's biggest setback during his first term however has to be his ground breaking Heathcare Reform Proposals that were headed by his wife & first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Republicans countered Clinton's Healthcare proposals calling them socialist, and too expensive to fund. Facing mounting pressure from the powerful American Medical Association and a Congress growing increasingly agitated by excessive government spending, The Clintons were forced to drop their ambitious plan. The President's failures leading to 1994 are in fact cited as the reason the Democrats lost both houses of Congress in the 1994 Congressional elections. But while all the failures I have highlighted so far were legislative, let us not forget that the Clinton White House was also rocked by a series of scandals, like the 1993 White Water real estate scandal. With the Democrats losing both houses of Congress to the Republicans in 1994, many wondered how Clinton would pass his legislative agenda and whether he even stood a chance of re-election. Time had come for Clinton to do what he had become famous for----make a comeback!!!

With 2 years remaining on his term, President Clinton began playing the Republican Congressional power to his advantage. In late 1995 when the Republicans led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich refused to approve Clinton's 1996 budget, the Federal Government was forced to shut down, leaving some 280,000 federal workers temporarily laid-off, an additional 500,000 forced to work without pay, and some federal services interrupted. A few months after this government shutdown, the Republicans forced yet another shutdown, this one lasting a few weeks longer than the first one. Americans were outraged by this incidents, which they saw as reckless behaviour and not in America's interest. Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich took most of the blame for this, making him one of the most hated personalities in the U.S. at that time. All these dramas worked in favour of President Clinton. By the time he vetoed a Bill by Republicans to cut down Medicare spending, there was already a set perception among most Americans, especially seniors, that he was a President going out of his way to fight a powerful Republican Congress, for the benefit of the common man. With this perception, all was set for his re-election in 1996.

In addition to his increasing domestic popularity, he bolstered his foreign policy standing when he orchestrated the landmark September 28th 1995 White House Lawn handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. At this historic White House meeting, the two leaders signed an agreement that would pave way for the creation of a Palestinian State alongside Israel. This together with a booming U.S. economy took his popularity back up to where it had been prior to the 1992 Presidential elections. The Comeback kid as he was called had made yet another comeback and his re-election was all but certain. His challengers in the 1996 Presidential elections were Repblican Bob Dole and Independent Ros Perot. Clinton easily won re-election in November 1996 with 276 electoral votes to Dole's 156. Clinton got 49% of the popular vote, Dole 41% and Perot 8%. Strangely enough however, both houses of Congress remained in the hands of Republicans.

President Clinton's second term was much more successful than his first. His major themes during his second term became Racial Harmony and National Service. This endeared him to many, and especially African-Americans, who thrived under his Presidency. In 1997 he announced a national initiative on race relations, calling for a year long focus on racial issues. He acknowledged the positive role the Civil Rights legislations had played in America, while emphasizing that more needed to be done to bridge the disparities between the races. He also encouraged more Americans to participate in National Service and especially volunteer work. In January 1998, his administration boasted the first balanced budget in over 25 years. His administration had managed to eliminate the national debt. He also saw continued success in the Middle East Peace Process. Eventhough he never realized Palestinian Statehood, his administration enjoyed a period of relative peace in the region. Relative peace still prevailed even after the assassination of moderate Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin and his succession by hardliner Benjamin Netanyahu.

By the end of 1997, President Clinton's job approval ratings were a high 65%. Soon after this however, the notorious sex scandals emerged. The first one stemmed from a sexual harrasment lawsuit brought forward by a former Arkansas State employee in 1991 while he was Gorvernor of Arkansas. The trial date for the case had been set for May 1988, meaning President Clinton would have to give a deposition in January 1998. As expected, the deposition turned out to be very embarassing for the President. Then in the middle of the Paula Jones incident, came the now infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal that threatened to throw him out of office altogether. Clinton was charged with having an illicit sexual affair with the young White House intern, and forcing her to lie about it under oath, so as not to negatively impact the Paula Jones lawsuit. Evidence later surfaced that Clinton had indeed had a sexual affair with Lewinsky, which led to Perjury charges against him and subsequent impeachment proceedings. Somehow the Comeback kid survived these sex scandals and Americans across the board appeared to have forgiven him, focussing instead on his other successes, especially the booming economy. President Clinton is still remembered by minorities as one of their best Presidents.

Return to the Home Page

Copyright©AfricanTribute.com Inc., 2002
All Rights Reserved

World Banner Exchange Banner
World Banner Exchange BannerWorld Banner Exchange Banner


The Africa Banner Network