My Life

( 127 )

Overview

President Bill Clinton's My Life is the strikingly candid portrait of a global leader who decided early in life to devote his intellectual and political gifts, and his extraordinary capacity for hard work, to serving the public.

It shows us the progress of a remarkable American, who, through his own enormous energies and efforts, made the unlikely journey from Hope, Arkansas, to the White House—a journey fueled by an impassioned interest in the political process which manifested...

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Overview

President Bill Clinton's My Life is the strikingly candid portrait of a global leader who decided early in life to devote his intellectual and political gifts, and his extraordinary capacity for hard work, to serving the public.

It shows us the progress of a remarkable American, who, through his own enormous energies and efforts, made the unlikely journey from Hope, Arkansas, to the White House—a journey fueled by an impassioned interest in the political process which manifested itself at every stage of his life: in college, working as an intern for Senator William Fulbright; at Oxford, becoming part of the Vietnam War protest movement; at Yale Law School, campaigning on the grassroots level for Democratic candidates; back in Arkansas, running for Congress, attorney general, and governor.

We see his career shaped by his resolute determination to improve the life of his fellow citizens, an unfaltering commitment to civil rights, and an exceptional understanding of the practicalities of political life.

We come to understand the emotional pressures of his youth—born after his father's death; caught in the dysfunctional relationship between his feisty, nurturing mother and his abusive stepfather, whom he never ceased to love and whose name he took; drawn to the brilliant, compelling Hillary Rodham, whom he was determined to marry; passionately devoted, from her infancy, to their daughter, Chelsea, and to the entire experience of fatherhood; slowly and painfully beginning to comprehend how his early denial of pain led him at times into damaging patterns of behavior.

President Clinton's book is also the fullest, most concretely detailed, most nuanced account of a presidency ever written-encompassing not only the high points and crises but the way the presidency actually works: the day-to-day bombardment of problems, personalities, conflicts, setbacks, achievements.

It is a testament to the positive impact on America and on the world of his work and his ideals.

It is the gripping account of a president under concerted and unrelenting assault orchestrated by his enemies on the Far Right, and how he survived and prevailed.

It is a treasury of moments caught alive, among them:

  • The ten-year-old boy watching the national political conventions on his family's new (and first) television set.
  • The young candidate looking for votes in the Arkansas hills and the local seer who tells him, "Anybody who would campaign at a beer joint in Joiner at midnight on Saturday night deserves to carry one box. . . . You'll win here. But it'll be the only damn place you win in this county." (He was right on both counts.)
  • The roller-coaster ride of the 1992 campaign.
  • The extraordinarily frank exchanges with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole.
  • The delicate manipulation needed to convince Rabin and Arafat to shake hands for the camera while keeping Arafat from kissing Rabin.
  • The cost, both public and private, of the scandal that threatened the presidency.
Here is the life of a great national and international figure, revealed with all his talents and contradictions, told openly, directly, in his own completely recognizable voice. A unique book by a unique American.


Also available from Random House Audio and in a Random House Large Print Edition.
clintonpresidentialcenter.org
with 32 pages of photographs
Jacket photographs courtesy of the Clinton Presidential Materials Project Jacket design by Carol Devine Carson.

Hear an audio excerpt of Bill Clinton discussing his start, his book, and his parents (4:37), and remembering the day he met JFK (1:27).

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In this hefty volume, the former president recounts his hardscrabble childhood in Hope, Arkansas; the illustrious academic career that took him to Oxford and Yale Law School; and his meteoric rise in politics. Offering a candid appraisal of his successes and setbacks, Clinton devotes plenty of space here to his White House years, paying particular attention to the policy initiatives he feels to be his true legacy. After unprecedented pre-publication media attention and build-up, My Life rewards our enduring fascination with this charismatic and controversial figure— celebrated by some as his generation’s most brilliant politician and condemned by others for his personal excesses.
Larry McMurtry
William Jefferson Clinton's My Life is, by a generous measure, the richest American presidential autobiography - no other book tells us as vividly or fully what it is like to be president of the United States for eight years. Clinton had the good sense to couple great smarts with a solid education; he arrived in Washington in 1964 and has been the nation's - or perhaps the world's - No. 1 politics junkie ever since. And he can write - as Reagan, Ford, Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson, to go no farther back, could not.
The New York Times
Walter Isaacson
[Clinton's] life is too fascinating, his mind too brilliant, his desire to charm too strong to permit him to produce a boring book. The combination of analytic and emotional intelligence that made him a great politician now makes him a compelling raconteur.
The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"By a generous measure, the richest American presidential autobiography–no other book tells us as vividly or fully what it is like to be president of the United States.... And he can write.” --Larry McMurtry, The New York Times Book Review

My Life is, without question, the best written U.S. presidential tome of all time.”  --Douglas Brinkley, Financial Times

“A hell of a good story.” --Frank McCourt, Entertainment Weekly

“It’s an almost voluptuous pleasure to read Clinton when he’s recounting and analyzing a political race or a legislative battle, whether it’s one of his own or somebody else’s.” —The New Yorker

“Consistently fascinating.” --The Seattle Times

“Clinton talks with disarming frankness [and] writes with grace and fluidity. . . . He is also a born storyteller.” --The New Republic

“Might just be the perfect representation of the man himself.” --The Plain Dealer

“Clinton has many tales to tell, particularly a rich, sometimes moving account of his years before the public life, fit for future analytical historians and biographers. . . . The personal and the political are intertwined. . . . Clinton’s story very much reflects the man we know.” --The Nation

“He manages to create the distinct impression that he is sitting in the living room talking to the reader. . . . Anyone who is geninely interested in American politics will find his insights and anecdotes fascinating. . . . The book helps to elucidate the question of ‘how he did it.’ ” --Deseret Morning News

“It’s a saga worthy of Cecil B. DeMille, a rags-to-riches tale full of the stuff of human frailty, with a cast of hundreds, complete with low-life villians and high-minded heroes and, as such stories require, an upbeat ending. . . . The 1990s come to life once again as a time of uncommon tumult and riveting personalities. . . . The personalities on parade are as vivid as the events.” --Newark Star-Ledger

“ Tremendously interesting and entertaining. . . . Clinton’s is a truly American story to which the average person can relate. . . . Future politicians will find it a must-read, and average Americans will identify with the highs and lows we all experience as we make our way through life.” --Chattanooga Times Free Press

“Takes readers through a strong account of the achievements and failures of his administrattion. . . . No other presidential memoir is likely to be so lively. . . . Bill Clinton is hard to dismiss, and so is an account of his extraordinary life.” -- The Tennessean

“A reading of MyLife is a necessity for lovers of good autobiograpy. It reads like a down-home history of a life and, thus, anchors Clinton as a superb storyteller. . . . Candid. . . . Honest. . . . Stimulating.” --Huntsville Times

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375414572
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/22/2004
  • Pages: 957
  • Sales rank: 85,763
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.13 (h) x 1.66 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

PROLOGUE

When I was a young man just out of law school and eager to get on with my life, on a whim I briefly put aside my reading preference for fiction and history and bought one of those how-to books: How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein. The book’s main point was the necessity of listing short-, medium-, and long-term life goals, then categorizing them in order of their importance, with the A group being the most important, the B group next, and the C the last, then listing under each goal specific activities designed to achieve them. I still have that paperback book, now almost thirty years old. And I’m sure I have that old list somewhere buried in my papers, though I can’t find it. However, I do remember the A list. I wanted to be a good man, have a good marriage and children, have good friends, make a successful political life, and write a great book.

Whether I’m a good man is, of course, for God to judge. I know that I am not as good as my strongest supporters believe or as I hope to become, nor as bad as my harshest critics assert. I have been graced beyond measure by my family life with Hillary and Chelsea. Like all families’ lives, ours is not perfect, but it has been wonderful. Its flaws, as all the world knows, are mostly mine, and its continuing promise is grounded in their love. No person I know ever had more or better friends. Indeed, a strong case can be made that I rose to the presidency on the shoulders of my personal friends, the now legendary FOBs.

My life in politics was a joy. I loved campaigns and I loved governing. I always tried to keep things moving in the right direction, to give more people a chance to live their dreams, to lift people’s spirits, and to bring them together. That’s the way I kept score.

As for the great book, who knows? It sure is a good story.

ONE

On Sunday, January 17, 1993 Al and Tipper Gore, Hillary, and I began inaugural week with a tour of Monticello, followed by a discussion of Thomas Jefferson’s importance to America with young people.

After the event, we boarded our bus for the 120-mile trip to Washington. The bus symbolized our commitment to giving the federal government back to the people. Besides, we cherished the fond memories it held, and we wanted one last ride. We stopped for a brief church service in the pretty Shenandoah Valley town of Culpeper, then made our way to Washington. Just as in the campaign, there were well-wishers, and a few critics, along the way.

By the time we got to the capital, the public events of our inaugural, entitled “An American Reunion: New Beginnings, Renewed Hope,” were already under way. My good friend Harry Thomason, advisor Rahm Emanuel, and Mel French, a friend from Arkansas who would become chief of protocol in my second term, had organized an extraordinary series of events, with as many as possible free of charge or within the price range of the working people who had elected me. On Sunday and Monday, the Mall between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument was filled by an outdoor festival featuring food, music, and crafts. That night we had a “Call for Reunion” concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with a star-studded lineup including Diana Ross and Bob Dylan, who thrilled the crowd of 200,000 that filled the space from the stage all the way back to the Washington Monument. Standing beneath Lincoln’s statue, I gave a short speech appealing for national unity, saying that Lincoln “gave new life to Jefferson’s dream that we are all created free and equal.”

After the concert, the Gores and my family led a procession of thousands of people carrying flashlights across the Potomac River on Memorial Bridge to the Lady Bird Johnson Circle just outside Arlington National Cemetery. At

6 p.m., we rang a replica of the Liberty Bell, to start “Bells of Hope” ringing all across America and even aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. Then there was a fireworks display followed by several receptions. By the time we got back to Blair House, the official guest residence just across the street from the White House, we were tired but exhilarated, and before falling asleep I took some time to review the latest draft of my inaugural address.

I still wasn’t satisfied with it. Compared with my campaign speeches, it seemed stilted. I knew it had to be more dignified, but I didn’t want it to drag. I did like one passage, built around the idea that our new beginning had “forced the spring” to come to America on this cold winter day. It was the brainchild of my friend Father Tim Healy, former president of Georgetown University. Tim had died suddenly of a heart attack while walking through Newark airport a few weeks after the election. When friends went to his apartment, they found in his typewriter the beginning of a letter to me that included suggested language for the inaugural speech. His phrase “force the spring” struck all of us, and I wanted to use it in his memory.

Monday, January 18, was the holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In the morning I held a reception for the diplomatic representatives of other nations in the inner quadrangle at Georgetown, addressing them from the steps of Old North Building. It was the same spot on which George Washington stood in 1797 and the great French general and Revolutionary War hero Lafayette spoke in 1824. I told the ambassadors that my foreign policy would be built on three pillars—economic security at home, restructuring the armed forces to meet the new challenges of the post–Cold War world, and support for democratic values across the globe. The day before, President Bush had ordered an air strike on a suspected weapons-production site in Iraq, and on this day, U.S. planes hit Saddam Hussein’s air-defense positions. I supported the effort to bring Saddam into full compliance with UN resolutions and asked the diplomats to emphasize that to their governments. After the diplomatic event, I spoke to Georgetown students and alumni, including many of my old classmates, urging them to support my national service initiative.

From Georgetown, we drove to Howard University for a ceremony honoring Dr. King, then to a luncheon at the beautiful Folger Library for more than fifty people Al, Tipper, Hillary, and I met during the campaign who had made a strong impression on us. We called them “Faces of Hope,” because of their courage in the face of adversity or their innovative ways of dealing with contemporary challenges. We wanted to thank these people for inspiring us, and to remind everyone, amidst the glamour of the inaugural week, that a lot of Americans were still having a hard time.

The Faces of Hope included two former members of rival gangs in Los Angeles who joined forces after the riots to give kids a better future; two of the Vietnam veterans who had sent me their medals; a school principal who had created a violence-free magnet school in Chicago’s highest-crime neighborhood, with students who regularly scored above state and national learning levels; a Texas judge who had created an innovative program for troubled kids; a young Arizona boy who had made me more aware of the family pressures caused by the extra hours his father had

to work; a Native American doctor from Montana who worked to improve mental-health services to her people; men who had lost their jobs to low-wage foreign competition; people struggling with costly health problems the government didn’t help with; a young entrepreneur scrapping for venture capital; people who ran community centers for broken families; a policeman’s widow whose husband was killed by a mental patient who bought a handgun without a background check; an eighteen-year-old financial wizard who was already working on Wall Street; a woman who had started a large recycling program at her plant; and many others. Michael Morrison, the young man who drove his wheelchair down an icy New Hampshire highway to work for me, was there. So was Dimitrios Theofanis, the Greek immigrant from New York who had asked me to make his boy free.

All of the Faces of Hope had taught me something about the pain and promise of America in 1992, but none more than Louise and Clifford Ray, whose three sons were hemophiliacs who had contracted the HIV virus through transfusions of tainted blood. They also had a daughter who was not infected. Frightened people in their small Florida community pushed to have the Ray boys removed from school, fearing that their children could be infected if one of them started bleeding and the blood got on them. The Rays filed a lawsuit to keep the kids in class and settled it out of court, then decided to move to Sarasota, a larger city where the school officials welcomed them. The oldest son, Ricky, was obviously very ill and fighting to hang on to his life. After the election, I called Ricky in the hospital to encourage him and invite him to the inauguration. He was looking forward to coming, but he didn’t make it; at fifteen, he lost his fight, just five weeks before I became President. I was so glad that the Rays came to the luncheon anyway. When I took office, they championed the cause of hemophiliacs with AIDS, and successfully lobbied Congress for the passage of the Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund. But it took eight long years, and their grief still wasn’t over. In October 2000, three months before the end of my presidency, the Rays’ second son, Robert, died of AIDS at twenty-two. If only anti-retroviral therapy had been available a few years earlier. Now that it is, I spend a lot of time trying to get the medicine to many of the Ricky Rays across the world. I want them to be Faces of Hope, too.

On Tuesday morning, Hillary and I started the day with a visit to the graves of John and Robert Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery. Accompanied by John Kennedy Jr., Ethel Kennedy, several of her children, and Senator Ted Kennedy, I knelt at the eternal flame and said a short prayer, thanking God for their lives and service and asking for wisdom and strength in the great adventures just ahead. At noon, I hosted a lunch for my fellow governors at the Library of Congress, thanking them for all I had learned from them in the past twelve years. After an afternoon event at the Kennedy Center highlighting America’s children, we drove out to the Capitol Centre in Landover, Maryland, for the Gala Concert, where Barbra Streisand, Wynton Marsalis, k.d. lang, rock legends Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Jack Nicholson, Bill Cosby, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, and other artists kept us entertained for hours. Fleetwood Mac brought the crowd to its feet with our campaign theme song, “Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow.”

After the concert, there was a late-night prayer service at the First Baptist Church, and it was after midnight when I got back to Blair House. Though it was getting better, I still wasn’t satisfied with the inaugural address. My speechwriters, Michael Waldman and David Kusnet, must have been tearing their hair out, because as we practiced between one and four in the morning on inauguration day, I was still changing it. Bruce Lindsey, Paul Begala, Bruce Reed, George Stephanopoulos, Michael Sheehan, and my wordsmith friends Tommy Caplan and Taylor Branch stayed up with me. So did Al Gore. The terrific staff at Blair House was used to taking care of foreign heads of state who kept all kinds of hours, so they were ready with gallons of coffee to keep us awake and snacks to keep us in a reasonably good humor. By the time I went to bed for a couple of hours’ sleep, I was feeling better about the speech.

Wednesday morning dawned cold and clear. I began the day with an early-morning security briefing, then I received instructions on how my military aide would handle the launching of our nuclear weapons. The President has five military aides, one outstanding young officer from each service branch; one of them is near him at all times.

Though a nuclear exchange seemed unthinkable with the Cold War over, assuming the control of our arsenal was a sober reminder of the responsibilities just a few hours away. There’s a difference between knowing about the presidency and actually being President. It’s hard to describe in words, but I left Blair House with my eagerness tempered by humility.

The last activity before the inauguration was a prayer service at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was important to me. With input from Hillary and Al Gore, I had picked the participating clergy, the singers, and the music. Hillary’s family and mine were there. Mother was beaming. Roger was grinning, and enjoying the music. Both our pastors from home participated in the service, as did Al and Tipper’s ministers, and George Stephanopoulos’s father, the Greek Orthodox dean of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York. Father Otto Hentz, who, almost thirty years earlier, had asked me to consider becoming a Jesuit, said a prayer. Rabbi Gene Levy from Little Rock and Imam Wallace D. Mohammad spoke. Several black clergymen who were friends of mine participated, with Dr. Gardner Taylor, one of America’s greatest preachers of any race or denomination, giving the principal address. My Pentecostal friends from Arkansas and Louisiana sang, along with Phil Driscoll, a fabulous singer and trumpeter Al knew from Tennessee, and Carolyn Staley sang “Be Not Afraid,” one of my favorite hymns and a good lesson for the day. Tears welled up in my eyes several times during the service, and I left it uplifted and ready for the hours ahead.

We went back to Blair House to look at the speech for the last time. It had gotten a lot better since 4 a.m. At ten, Hillary, Chelsea, and I walked across the street to the White House, where we were met on the front steps by President and Mrs. Bush, who took us inside for coffee with the Gores and the Quayles. Ron and Alma Brown were also there. I wanted Ron to share a moment he had done so much to make possible. I was struck by how well President and Mrs. Bush dealt with a painful situation and a sad parting—it was obvious that they had become close to several members of the staff and would miss and be missed by them. At about 10:45, we all got into limousines. Following tradition, President Bush and I rode together, with Speaker Foley and Wendell Ford, the gravelly-voiced senator from Kentucky who was co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and who had worked hard for the narrow victory that Al and I had won in his state.

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First Chapter

Early on the morning of August 19, 1946, I was born under a clear sky after a violent summer storm to a widowed mother in the Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, a town of about six thousand in southwest Arkansas, thirty-three miles east of the Texas border at Texarkana. My mother named me William Jefferson Blythe III after my father, William Jefferson Blythe Jr., one of nine children of a poor farmer in Sherman, Texas, who died when my father was seventeen. According to his sisters, my father always tried to take care of them, and he grew up to be a handsome, hardworking, fun-loving man. He met my mother at Tri- State Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1943, when she was training to be a nurse. Many times when I was growing up, I asked Mother to tell me the story of their meeting, courting, and marriage. He brought a date with some kind of medical emergency into the ward where she was working, and they talked and flirted while the other woman was being treated. On his way out of the hospital, he touched the finger on which she was wearing her boyfriend's ring and asked her if she was married. She stammered "no"-she was single. The next day he sent the other woman flowers and her heart sank. Then he called Mother for a date, explaining that he always sent flowers when he ended a relationship.

Two months later, they were married and he was off to war. He served in a motor pool in the invasion of Italy, repairing jeeps and tanks. After the war, he returned to Hope for Mother and they moved to Chicago, where he got back his old job as a salesman for the Manbee Equipment Company. They bought a little house in the suburb of Forest Park but couldn't move in for a couple of months, and since Mother was pregnant with me, they decided she should go home to Hope until they could get into the new house. On May 17, 1946, after moving their furniture into their new home, my father was driving from Chicago to Hope to fetch his wife. Late at night on Highway 60 outside of Sikeston, Missouri, he lost control of his car, a 1942 Buick, when the right front tire blew out on a wet road. He was thrown clear of the car but landed in, or crawled into, a drainage ditch dug to reclaim swampland. The ditch held three feet of water. When he was found, after a two-hour search, his hand was grasping a branch above the waterline. He had tried but failed to pull himself out. He drowned, only twenty-eight years old, married two years and eight months, only seven months of which he had spent with Mother.

That brief sketch is about all I ever really knew about my father. All my life I have been hungry to fill in the blanks, clinging eagerly to every photo or story or scrap of paper that would tell me more of the man who gave me life.

When I was about twelve, sitting on my uncle Buddy's porch in Hope, a man walked up the steps, looked at me, and said, "You're Bill Blythe's son. You look just like him." I beamed for days.

In 1974, I was running for Congress. It was my first race and the local paper did a feature story on my mother. She was at her regular coffee shop early in the morning discussing the article with a lawyer friend when one of the breakfast regulars she knew only casually came up to her and said, "I was there, I was the first one at the wreck that night." He then told Mother what he had seen, including the fact that my father had retained enough consciousness or survival instinct to try to claw himself up and out of the water before he died. Mother thanked him, went out to her car and cried, then dried her tears and went to work.

In 1993, on Father's Day, my first as President, the Washington Post ran a long investigative story on my father, which was followed over the next two months by other investigative pieces by the Associated Press and many smaller papers. The stories confirmed the things my mother and I knew. They also turned up a lot we didn't know, including the fact that my father had probably been married three times before he met Mother, and apparently had at least two more children.

My father's other son was identified as Leon Ritzenthaler, a retired owner of a janitorial service, from northern California. In the article, he said he had written me during the '92 campaign but had received no reply. I don't remember hearing about his letter, and considering all the other bullets we were dodging then, it's possible that my staff kept it from me. Or maybe the letter was just misplaced in the mountains of mail we were receiving. Anyway, when I read about Leon, I got in touch with him and later met him and his wife, Judy, during one of my stops in northern California. We had a happy visit and since then we've corresponded in holiday seasons. He and I look alike, his birth certificate says his father was mine, and I wish I'd known about him a long time ago.

Somewhere around this time, I also received information confirming news stories about a daughter, Sharon Pettijohn, born Sharon Lee Blythe in Kansas City in 1941, to a woman my father later divorced. She sent copies of her birth certificate, her parents' marriage license, a photo of my father, and a letter to her mother from my father asking about "our baby" to Betsey Wright, my former chief of staff in the governor's office. I'm sorry to say that, for whatever reason, I've never met her.

This news breaking in 1993 came as a shock to Mother, who by then had been battling cancer for some time, but she took it all in stride. She said young people did a lot of things during the Depression and the war that people in another time might disapprove of. What mattered was that my father was the love of her life and she had no doubt of his love for her. Whatever the facts, that's all she needed to know as her own life moved toward its end. As for me, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it all, but given the life I've led, I could hardly be surprised that my father was more complicated than the idealized pictures I had lived with for nearly half a century.

In 1994, as we headed for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of D-day, several newspapers published a story on my father's war record, with a snapshot of him in uniform. Shortly afterward, I received a letter from Umberto Baron of Netcong, New Jersey, recounting his own experiences during the war and after. He said that he was a young boy in Italy when the Americans arrived, and that he loved to go to their camp, where one soldier in particular befriended him, giving him candy and showing him how engines worked and how to repair them. He knew him only as Bill. After the war, Baron came to the United States, and, inspired by what he had learned from the soldier who called him "Little GI Joe," he opened his own garage and started a family. He told me he had lived the American dream, with a thriving business and three children. He said he owed so much of his success in life to that young soldier, but hadn't had the opportunity to say good-bye then, and had often wondered what had happened to him. Then, he said, "On Memorial Day of this year, I was thumbing through a copy of the New York Daily News with my morning coffee when suddenly I felt as if I was struck by lightning. There in the lower left-hand corner of the paper was a photo of Bill. I felt chills to learn that Bill was none other than the father of the President of the United States."

In 1996, the children of one of my father's sisters came for the first time to our annual family Christmas party at the White House and brought me a gift: the condolence letter my aunt had received from her congressman, the great Sam Rayburn, after my father died. It's just a short form letter and appears to have been signed with the autopen of the day, but I hugged that letter with all the glee of a six-year-old boy getting his first train set from Santa Claus. I hung it in my private office on the second floor of the White House, and looked at it every night.

Shortly after I left the White House, I was boarding the USAir shuttle in Washington for New York when an airline employee stopped me to say that his stepfather had just told him he had served in the war with my father and had liked him very much. I asked for the old vet's phone number and address, and the man said he didn't have it but would get it to me. I'm still waiting, hoping there will be one more human connection to my father.

At the end of my presidency, I picked a few special places to say goodbye and thanks to the American people. One of them was Chicago, where Hillary was born; where I all but clinched the Democratic nomination on St. Patrick's Day 1992; where many of my most ardent supporters live and many of my most important domestic initiatives in crime, welfare, and education were proved effective; and, of course, where my parents went to live after the war. I used to joke with Hillary that if my father hadn't lost his life on that rainy Missouri highway, I would have grown up a few miles from her and we probably never would have met. My last event was in the Palmer House Hotel, scene of the only photo I have of my parents together, taken just before Mother came back to Hope in 1946. After the speech and the good-byes, I went into a small room where I met a woman, Mary Etta Rees, and her two daughters. She told me she had grown up and gone to high school with my mother, then had gone north to Indiana to work in a war industry, married, stayed, and raised her children. Then she gave me another precious gift: the letter my twenty-three-year-old mother had written on her birthday to her friend, three weeks after my father's death, more than fifty-four years earlier. It was vintage Mother. In her beautiful hand, she wrote of her heartbreak and her determination to carry on: "It seemed almost unbelievable at the time but you see I am six months pregnant and the thought of our baby keeps me going and really gives me the whole world before me."

My mother left me the wedding ring she gave my father, a few moving stories, and the sure knowledge that she was loving me for him too.

My father left me with the feeling that I had to live for two people, and that if I did it well enough, somehow I could make up for the life he should have had. And his memory infused me, at a younger age than most, with a sense of my own mortality. The knowledge that I, too, could die young drove me both to try to drain the most out of every moment of life and to get on with the next big challenge. Even when I wasn't sure where I was going, I was always in a hurry.

Excerpted from My Life by Bill Clinton. Copyright © 2004 by Bill Clinton. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 127 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    Inspiring

    I didn't know what to expect when I first began to listen to this book. At the end I realized just how much I didn't know and wished I had about President Clinton. His life is proof that you can make of your life whatever you wish. He shows that making mistakes, even for someone in the public eye, doesn't make you unforgivable - it makes us human.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2011

    Great! Read over and over

    Wonderful read! He is human.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2011

    Truly great read!

    You can't put this book down

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Captivating! You won't want to put the book down!

    This book was a wonderful read. The book is a little long but well worth it. It will give you a good idea why he believes in the polices that he does or a glance into his and Hillary's personal life. The part of this book that stood out to me, that shows why he believes in the polices that he does is the story of his grandfathers grocery store. His grandfather would black out the receipts of the customers who couldn't pay because his grandfather believed that if you're trying to feed your family and can't afford to, you need a break. Bill went on to say this is why he believed in food stamps. But what I think is the crux of the book is when he was elected to governor. A man who was on PCP had gotten a railroad tie and knocked down the door to the governors mansion. It took 3 very large secret service members to seduce the crazed man. I love this book and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good read. There were a few parts of the book weren't that well written. A good chunk of the book is filler. They are very bland and boring parts that are just there to fill the book. There are parts of the book that are just back and forth between him and someone he knows. This I a very well written and interesting book that gives a glimpse into this political and private life. If you liked this book you would also like the book written by his wife Hillary Clinton or our current president Barack Obama's book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    A Life Not Yet Over

    My Life by Bill Clinton (957 pages) is immensely enjoyable - it would have been a great read even if it wasn't written by a former President of the United States. Besides the glimpses it offers into the Presidency and Mr Clinton's private life, it offers a guide for success: Start early, stay committed, rise above yourself and your circumstances, and persevere. The book is lucid, well written, and instructive. Mr Clinton, for example, discusses some of the people and lists several of the books that have been influential in his life, including Red Star Over China (Edgar Snow) and You Can't Go Home Again (Thomas Wolfe). He also serves to remind us that life consists of both successes and failures. For the former President, a balanced federal budget is a particularly relevant success story given the current climate of economic uncertainty, while the failure to broker successful negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians continues to breed instability and human suffering. My Life is a gold mine of political ideas and personal lessons.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    president clinton tells all from the day he was born to his final day in the white house.

    former president bill clinton tells a true american story. he reveals a side of himself that was closed off to the public his entire eight years in office. he tells his story with enthusiasm and his own unforgetable charm. he leaves nothing unsaid in his journey coming from a middle class family in hope, arkansas to being presidant of the united states.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2014

    One of my favorite president

    A really good read this is how a book should be done





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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013

    Love

    <3 this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Um hello?

    This is thepresident who was impeached and held in contempt of court by a federal judge.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2013

    Highly recommended

    Very interesting, and definitely did not end up being boring!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    Dont care for him

    He got on tv and lied

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    Great

    Like it storm cloud

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    Mystery Cat

    It was ok.... Not much too it, and not very attention grabbing. Also, the ending peaked at an unsteady place...... Try harder..
    --Mystery Cat

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    Mosstar

    I lov it. Wher will the next chapter b?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2012

    Bill clinton

    I did not have sexual relations with that woman.....jk dawg
    It was awesome they took the cover photo right after.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2012

    Bill Clinton's book, My Life, is proof that not all Caucasians a

    Bill Clinton's book, My Life, is proof that not all Caucasians are racist

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2012

    Spikes room

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2012

    Bill clinton my life

    Loved review January 11, 2006 exactly how I feel about that president of ours! What a fraud he is!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    ?...................~|¿¿the warrior newspaper¿¿|~

    ?....................................some clans.................................................. a new clan tha been trying to be stable. Poolclan. This clan led by PoolStar has been trying to get ative cats to join. More infonation will be held at pool flame join only if you haveno powers and your active.... a old clan that i found active. HorseClan. Led by BraveStar it has been through think and thin. Join at burning woods

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012

    Great book by a great man.

    I loved reading this great book, it told me a lot about the man, i loved it very much.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 127 Customer Reviews

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