Bill Clinton: Presidency & Accomplishments

Instructor: James Moeller
William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. He oversaw one of the most prosperous economic periods in US history, but he was not without his problems, for he was the 2nd President to be impeached. Read on to learn about this enigmatic figure in our nation's history.

Bill Clinton: The New Democrat

'When times are tough and people are frustrated and angry and hurting and uncertain, the politics of constant conflict may be good, but what is good politics does not necessarily work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation.' -- President Bill Clinton

42nd US President, Bill Clinton

The above quote speaks volumes about William Jefferson Clinton, more commonly known as Bill Clinton. As the only Democrat in 50 years to win a second term as President (up to that time), he accomplished much in his two terms as President of the United States, overseeing one of the most economically prosperous decades since the 1950s.

Early Life & Education

Bill Clinton was born in the small Arkansas town of Hope on August 19, 1946. His father, William Jefferson Blythe, died in an auto accident a few months before he was born. His mother, Virginia Cassidy Blythe, suddenly found herself without a husband and the resources needed to support her son.

She moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to attend nursing school, while Bill stayed behind to be raised by his grandparents. His grandparents tended to be strict disciplinarians, but they also gave young Bill a love of education. Clinton later expressed gratitude for his grandparents' guidance. Virginia returned to Hope, Arkansas, in 1950, and that same year married her husband's business partner, Roger Clinton. In 1952, the family moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Roger Clinton, an alcoholic, frequently abused his wife. At 14, already six-feet tall, Bill confronted his stepfather and prevented him from hurting his mom. Virginia ultimately divorced Roger in 1962. Once again, she was forced to raise her children (Bill and his half-brother, Roger Clinton, Jr.) all by herself, and it was during this period that the future president would experience poverty first-hand as his mother had to work multiple jobs to support the household. Later, as President of the United States, Bill Clinton continually praised his mother's work ethic and never forgot his background of poverty.

In June of 1963, Bill Clinton was elected as an officer in the Arkansas American Legion Boys Nation, earning him a visit to the White House. It was a seminal moment in Clinton's life, for he got the opportunity to meet with President John F. Kennedy, whom he idolized. During the same trip, he also met US Senator J. William Fulbright, prompting Clinton to later make the following comment: 'Fulbright I admired to no end. He had a real impact on me.' The young Clinton worked as a clerk in Senator Fulbright's office.

17-year-old Bill Clinton meets President John F. Kennedy.

Clinton graduated high school in 1964 and enrolled at Georgetown University. Graduating from the university in 1968, he earned a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in England. Upon his arrival in England, he received his Draft Notice, forcing him to return to Arkansas. He avoided being drafted, though, by stating he would enroll in both the University of Arkansas School of Law and ROTC. Instead, however, he went back to Oxford and, feeling somewhat guilty about his attempt to avoid the draft, he resubmitted his name to the Draft Board. A lottery system was in effect, and Clinton's number was so high he was assured of not being sent to Vietnam, where the war had been active for some time.

After Oxford, Clinton returned to the United States and enrolled at Yale University to complete his law studies. While there, he met Hillary Rodham and both of them graduated in 1973. By 1975, they were married and returned to Arkansas.

Accomplishments as Governor & President

Settling in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Bill Clinton began teaching at the University of Arkansas Law School. In 1974, he ran an unsuccessful campaign against Republican Congressman Paul Hammerschmidt, who represented Arkansas in the House of Representatives. However, the process made him a rising star in the Arkansas political pool, and he won the election as the state Attorney General in 1976.

In 1978, Clinton easily defeated Republican Lynn Lowe, claiming Arkansas governorship at the age of 32--one of the youngest state governors in US history. In his first term, he sought to reform the state's health and educational services. However, he made mistakes when he hiked the auto registration tax and roughly handled a Cuban refugee policy at nearby Ft. Chaffee.

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