Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Visit to Bill's Birthplace in Hope Arkansas

Just before midnight Mountain Standard Time on November 3, 1992, I was laying in my bed in the Doubletree Hotel on Union Boulevard in Denver when news was flashed on the television screen announcing that Bill Clinton had become the 42nd President of the United States.  I leaped out of bed and danced around my room, screaming and hollering.  I opened two bottles of beer, shook them, and then sprayed them all over the room! 

Soon there was a knock on my door and on opening it I found hotel security standing there with a rather stern look on his face.  Asking me what was going on I told him “Bill was elected!!! Twelve years of tyranny against the earth is now officially over!!!”  The security guard smiled and said “I’m excited too but just try to hold it down a bit will you?”

Bill Clinton's first white house was this tiny one in Hope Arkansas

Bill Clinton was born in a tiny house near the intersection of two major roads (for Hope Arkansas at least they are major) by the railroad tracks in Hope Arkansas.  From those humble beginnings he moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas about 90 minutes away where he attended and graduated from high school.  After college and a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford and then Yale Law school he taught at the University of Arkansas, got into politics, was elected Governor of Arkansas four times, then elected President of the United States, and left office on one of the saddest days of my life. 

While Bill was in office he enjoyed some major accomplishments summarized by the National Archives and Records Administration including these documentable facts:

Longest economic expansion in American history

Highest homeownership in American history

Lowest unemployment in 30 years

Raised education standards, increased school choice, and doubled education and training investment

Largest expansion of college opportunity since the GI Bill

Connected 95 percent of schools to the Internet

Lowest crime rate in 26 years

100,000 more police for our streets

Enacted most sweeping gun safety legislation in a generation

Family and Medical Leave Act for 20 million Americans

Smallest welfare rolls in 32 years

Higher incomes at all levels
Lowest poverty rate in 20 years

Lowest teen birth rate in 60 years

Lowest infant mortality rate in American history

Deactivated more than 1,700 nuclear warheads from the former Soviet Union

Protected millions of acres of American land

Converted the largest budget deficit in American history to the largest surplus

Lowest government spending in three decades

Lowest federal income tax burden in 35 years

More families own stock than ever before

Most diverse cabinet in American history

When Bill left office the nation 1) had a multi-billion dollar (>500 billion in fact) budget surplus, 2) had not been lied into a war with Iraq, and 3) was adored by 85 percent of the world’s population. Those are all things his predecessor could never claim.

Those accomplishments and his humble beginnings are memorialized at the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site in Hope, Arkansas.  This NHS, the 394th unit of the National Park Service system was the 393rd unit I have visited.

The National Historic Site consists of two buildings.  First the visitor center set in a brick building with a spacious back yard and next to it the small white house that was the first White House he lived in.  Dioramas and other educational materials in the visitor center tell the story of his life in Hope and in Hot Springs and his eventual movement through the ranks to be one of the best Presidents in the 20th Century. 

I visited the site on April 13, 2014, on a blustery Sunday morning with storm clouds hanging ominously in the western sky.  After obtaining my NPS passport stamp for the site I had a nice chat with the NPS employee working that morning who filled in a lot of missing bits of information I thought I had about Bill Clinton.  From the Visitor Center I followed a small path to the white house (not open for entry) and then hung out in the back yard trying to imagine him darting around being a typical little kid there. 

Because of the relative newness of the National Historic Site the amount of information about him is meager in comparison to most other NPS sites.  However there is a super abundance of information about him at the Clinton Presidential library along the Arkansas River in Little Rock.  I jokingly asked the NPS employee if Bill ever stops by his National Historic Site and was informed that he does not.  That is unfortunate because Jimmy Carter regularly shows up at his National Historic Site in Plains Georgia.  The NPS employee chuckled and said “He’s probably too busy out trying to save the rest of the world to stop by to see us.”

The Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas is the only airport in America named after a former and a future United States President

After about 30 minutes at the National Historic Site I left Hope and made my way back to the Little Rock airport only 120 miles away.  On driving into the airport I noticed the large sign announcing its presence and on looking at it noted what I hope is an omen.  The Little Rock airport is named the “Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.”  That makes it the only airport in the United States named after a former and a future United States President.  That’s just more hope coming from Hope Arkansas.