President William Jefferson Clinton: The Most Interesting Man in the World?
Everyone knows the first speaker this season is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s husband. And what was he before that? Most of you will recall President Bill Clinton’s two terms in national office, the roiling politics, the Senate acquittal, the rise from “it’s the economy, stupid” to budget surplus, the saxophone. And before that, there were the terms as attorney general and then governor of Arkansas. Wikipedia will recap all of this history nicely for you.
But what since then?
The New York Times refers to him as “among the most active of ex-presidents,” this in an age rich (some may choose a different word) with ex-presidents and other former politicians. And he is one of the youngest, too.
President Clinton, over the past 12 years of his post-presidency, has traveled the world in service to humanity, raising money for Indonesian tsunami victims, Haitian earthquake victims, and survivors of Hurricane Katrina. At the rather youthful post-presidential age of 66, he has functioned as a not-quite-elder statesman, successfully negotiating the freedom of Americans held captive in North Korea in 2009, serving as a UN Special Envoy, and authoring memoirs along with policy books.
Over the past decade, his William J. Clinton Foundation has established him as a significant humanitarian philanthropist. The Foundation has raised and distributed world-wide hundreds of millions to fund projects ranging from HIV/AIDS prevention to elementary and high school soft-drink bans, all in line with its mission to “improve global health, strengthen economies, promote healthier childhoods, and protect the environment by fostering partnerships among businesses, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and private citizens.”
In short, since leaving office, President Clinton has emerged as a world-class do-gooder—a man who defies health concerns and ignores the siren-song of an untroubled golf-filled retirement to better the lot of his fellow humans.
Of course and perhaps as obverse to such beneficence, he also remains active and highly visible in American politics. With a 60+% national approval rating, a wife who has gone from First Lady to senator to presidential candidate to Secretary of State, and ample opportunity and encouragement to apply his keen political aptitude to the continuation of the Obama presidency, President Clinton persists as a vibrant and formidable political player.
Whatever the future holds, President William Jefferson Clinton remains a multi-facetted and fascinating man. A former Rhodes Scholar, his intelligence is legendary, and his accomplishments are considerable. I am not sure what beer he drinks or even if he drinks beer, but he maintains his status as one of the most interesting men in the world. One may agree with him or disagree with him, love him or hate him, but one immutable fact persists: through success and controversy, failure and redemption, President Bill Clinton stands out as fundamentally—perhaps even operatically—human. He is and always has been one of us, just maybe more so.
Jim Salvucci, Ph.D., a professor of English by training, is the Dean of the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Stevenson University.