Flashback – Arkansas:
The William J. Clinton Presidential Library, 1200 President Clinton Ave. in Little Rock, Arkansas is – in one word – impressive. The library is a raised building overlooking the Arkansas River and its bridges. Locals refer to it as the ‘double-wide on stilts.’ The trailer reference has little to do with Clinton and more to do with former Governor Mike Huckabee, who lived out of a trailer, parked on the front lawn while the governor’s mansion was being remodeled. The Clinton Library is far from a trailer. The entire building is environmentally friendly with solar panels, recycled materials and energy efficient everything.
The three-story facility opened in 2006 and was financed completely through donations and contributions. Filled with a mix of black-and-white and color photos, the library details Clinton’s eight-year administration timeline from 1993 through 2000. There are interactive touch-screen stations, a full-scale replica of the Oval Office, biographical material of Clinton’s early years growing up in Hope, Arkansas and monthly binders to access the President’s daily schedule.
Most impressive were a series of hand-written letters from people like Fred Rogers (Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood) who praised Clinton for encouraging children to read, and there was a letter from Paul Newman. The Hollywood actor turned race car driver received a note from Clinton about a racing accident March 7, 1996. Newman responded, “Dear Mr. President. Thank you kindly for your note. It was a humiliating experience. I’m the only race car driver in modern history to crash off the circuit at 25 m.p.h.”
The other impressive section paid tribute to the Little Rock 9; a group of black students from Little Rock Central High School who tried to integrate the school in 1957. The story about the students was fascinating, especially since Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus defied federal orders when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial integration was unconstitutional. The Governor used the Arkansas National Guard to block entry to the school, but he was trumped when President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened and sent the 101st Airborne Division to escort the students to school.
Aside from the Clinton Library paying tribute to the Little Rock 9, there was also a life-size bronze statue of the nine students outside the State Capitol.