My Life

My Life

by Bill Clinton


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#1 New York Times Bestseller

President Bill Clinton’s My Life is the strikingly candid portrait of the 42nd U.S. president, 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400030033
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/31/2005
Pages: 1056
Sales rank: 411,005
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.98(h) x 1.87(d)

About the Author

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, 42nd President of the United States, led the U.S. to the longest economic expansion in American history, including the creation of more than 22 million jobs. After leaving the White House, President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation, and today, the renamed Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, works to improve global health and wellness, increase opportunity for girls and women, reduce childhood obesity, create economic opportunity and growth, and help communities address the effects of climate change. 
   In addition to his Foundation work, President Clinton has joined with former President George H.W. Bush three times – after the 2004 tsunami in South Asia, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008, and with President George W. Bush in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Today the Clinton Foundation supports economic growth, job creation, and sustainability in Haiti.
   President Clinton was born on August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas. He and his wife Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton have one daughter, Chelsea, and live in Chappaqua, New York.

Date of Birth:

August 19, 1946

Place of Birth:

Hope, Arkansas


Georgetown University; Oxford University; Yale University

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One:

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.

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My Life 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 146 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved review January 11, 2006 exactly how I feel about that president of ours! What a fraud he is!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful read! He is human.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You can't put this book down
tylermaire More than 1 year ago
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.
Nondas_Bellos More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bill is very protective of his real self. He lives and breathes politics. There are several nostalgic stories in the book as one who has lived during this time I can relate to. Too much detail about political events. Most of the book is about his political experiences, not his personal life. Not the real Bill Clinton. As a result, very boring in many places. Lists of names and dates and events. I am still not finished with the book. I do not like not finishing a book but I will have to force myself to pick this one up again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It¿s History told with meaningless and mind-numbing details. It¿s Biography viewed from a self absorbed perspective. After reading the tome, I am reminded that there is only one tragedy in life----wasted talent. Nothing contained in this book is likely to change history¿s verdict of his eight years in office. Most economists will continue to view Clinton as the fortunate beneficiary of the technology revolution. His political success was achieved by passing Republican agenda items like NAFTA and Welfare Reform. He has nothing to compare with LBJ¿s Civil Rights and Great Society reforms; FDR¿s New Deal and Victory over Fascism, or Truman¿s Marshall Plan and the creations of modern American internationalism. So, left with nothing meaningful to explain, Clinton writes about himself. If that is of interest to you, then expect a lengthy but easy read. Unfortunately, Clinton remains for me a first class intellect but a third rate President.
loyolanaveenyonnex 9 months ago
bill clinton is a fraud, murderer and predator. how did he become president? the money is from a gold loot by john Reed ( a rogue who became CEO of bankrupt citicorp around 1987) who funneled a loot of $20 billion from manila through prince Alwahed of saudi. this prince is now jailed and all his ill gotten wealth seized by king salman. That is why when this fake Prince gave donation after Wtc 911 the mayor refused. He knows his about John reed dirty money. Same money Obama. his Cabinet/admin all decided by prince i.e. Wallstreet. Las veags shooting also about assassination attempt on king. that explains how bill clinton a cocaine guy oxford drop out for sex crimes has become President/governor. He should be jailed immediately. I have been saying this for years.
LauraBogart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is a real treat to hear this audiobook presentation of Bill Clinton's autobiography: he, as always, is an excellent speaker and draws you into the store as he portrays it in his own voice. This very much is worth the time and money.
alanna1122 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a looong book (and it's only the first half of the original publication!) I mostly enjoyed it - Clinton has lead a remarkable life and is a good story teller to boot. Every once in a while he would get bogged down in the specifics of budgets or some other dry subject area - but overall it was very enjoyable and I learned some history too!
bibliophile007 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really comprehensive book. About a billion pages long.
WillowOne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The biography of William Jefferson Clinton our 42nd President of the United States is a very fact full book. If you ever wanted to know anything about Bill Clinton it is probably chronicled somewhere in this book. Although interesting and insight gaining you must wade through, sometimes, too much information. It doesn't always flow and you can get bogged down by the day to day flow of information. This is truly a book that is all encompassing of his life from childhood through manhood, schooling, parental shaping, family, dating, marriage, values, politics, mistakes, love, adultery, fatherhood and so much more. A hard read in my opinion but, insightful.
red.yardbird on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked it, but it was way to long and way to much "i did this, then i did that..."
briansf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting review of his life and his personal struggles. I particularly like the personal stories of his political battles while he was President and the inside stories during that time. It is an eye opener of how and why things happen the way they do in Washington, D.C.
labelleaurore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very slow read... not my kind of book. It could have been done with more passion and love.
Pferdina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this autobiography. I learned a lot about Bill Clinton's presidency and all the things that were going on in the world during those eight years. My favorite parts of the book were the stories of his growing up in Arkansas and the things he did while in school. The book weighs a ton, and it is 957 pages long, but I did not get tired of it at all.
ktsbentley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very long book that is well worth reading. This is a remarkable account of not only Bill Clinton's history, but of the history of the United States during that time. It was fascinating to read this book after reading Hillary Clinton's biography. There is something fascinating about reading about the same event from two different perspectives. I have a great deal of respect for Bill Clinton's presidency, and now I have even more respect for his life in general and for the commitments that Bill and Hillary have made together.
madamejeanie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yayyy! I finally finished this book! It's huge and full of detail. It'sgood but in some places (the excruciating detail of the various peace talksfor example) I found my eyes crossing and had to lay it down for a while.I have to say that one of three things must be true of Bill Clinton. Eithera) he kept copious journals from about the age of 2 year onward, b) he has aphotographic memory, or c) he was making this up as he went along. Heincluded the most minute details of his formative years, every campaign heever ran, nearly every hand he ever shook. But for all that, he left outdetails of certain episodes we all know took place in the Oval Office with acertain intern. Actually, he did refer to that and even devoted abouthalf a chapter to it, but even with all his words, he didn't really tell usanything we didn't already know in lurid detail from the Starr report thatwent to Congress and got posted on the Internet. The insights he did giveinto the whys and wherefores of the Starr investigation into the mostprivate details of his (and many others as well) life were interesting.I enjoyed this book because it gave me another point of view for a lot ofthings and explained the odd relationship between Clinton and NewtGingrinch, Clinton's love for his family and his home state of Arkansas, alittle behind the scenes explanations for some of the mistakes Gore made inthe 2000 campaign and a myriad of other things. If you enjoy biographiesand politics, you'll enjoy this book. Clinton has a very friendly writingstyle and tells the stories of his life well. I do think, though, that hewould have benefited from some editing. There were a lot of details thatseemed to drag on and on forever. So it is for that reason that I will givethe book a 4, though it should have been a 5 with better editing.
Tipton_Renwick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Close to 1000 pages of Bill Clinton explaining to the American people how great he is and what a great presidency he had. I thought it focused too much on his early years. Die-hard Clintonistas might like it. Politics buffs should read the second half to get an insider's acocunt on how Washington, in its most vitriolic form, works. For anyone else, this is a good book to skim and just read the interesting bits.
JBreedlove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bill Clinton's life and presidency in his own words. A passionate telling of his life. A truly dynamic individual.
Replay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Who's the little boy who wrote this book? Oh...the former president of the USA. Curiosity.
pbirch01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can wholeheartedly agree with the other reviews that this is a slow book. However, that does not mean that it should not be read. This book took me several months to finish and I had to repeatedly renew it from the library. Clinton's attention to detail is impressive which is one reason why it can take such a long time to finish this book. He seems to mention almost everyone he knows including the guy who cut his hair when he was twelve. His literary style can often be described as rambling as he jumps around occasionally and has varying syntax. Although this may be frustrating from a literary standpoint, it also gives us an insight into the mind of a great politician as it allows us to see how he relates to the world around him. It also gives a unique and candid view of some famous world leaders some of us know only from the news. His optimism throughout his personal and public struggles are best seen in his somewhat rambling writing style.
mramos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'My Life' is a long and detailed autobiography of William Jefferson Clinton, the forty-second president of the United States of America. Though this book is very long, approximately one thousand pages, it was entertaining enough to read the whole thing. It is obvious that he kept a detailed diary his whole life. Pres. Clinton's book is not the normal biography. It is written in chronological order starting with his boyhood. Though as you read it you will find yourself jumping all over time. He does this whenever he feels he has to defend his actions. And I felt the whole book is about trying to defend his legacy and set the record straight. The book seems very self-serving and he seems more concerned about what we think of him, instead of just writing what transpired. Though I did find his book very easy to read. I did feel as if he I was sitting on a covered front porch with a class of ice tea and listening as Pres. Clinton spins an interesting tale. I had no problem reading the entire book and did find it enjoyable despite his agenda. He does share some of his shortcomings and how he overcame them. This is also a story of a boy making good in America. He comes from rural state and used every opportunity America offers each and every one of us. And that message is worth sharing. Do not pick up this book looking for dark details of his life. You will not find it. But I did learn much about how he saw himself and his view on affairs that affected or touched his life. I do recommend reading this book.