The Clinton First Home Museum in Hope, Ark., will become an official National Park Service historic site at the beginning of next year. It’s a two-story house on South Hervey Street that served as the center of future president Bill’s life until he was 10.
With its white clapboards, green trim, broad eaves, and front porch, the place looks like it was tele-transported into this century from the early 1950s. There’s good stuff inside, such as a Lionel train set little Bill’s stepfather gave him. The private foundation that has run the museum for some years and is now donating it to the park service also planted a nice garden in the backyard as a memorial to Bill’s mom, Virginia Cassidy Blythe Clinton Kelley.
But now that the feds are assuming control of the museum, what should be added? The park service, after all, is in the business of trying to maintain reverence for our leaders of the past while placing their lives in a proper context.
In that spirit we have some suggestions for acquisitions that would give the thousands of tourists who will flood into this new NPS holding a sense of Clinton’s roller coaster of a presidency:
Photo of Clinton meeting JFK. Remember that image? The 16-year-old Clinton, an American Legion delegate to a Boy’s Nation confab in Washington, is leaning forward, eager, shaking the young president’s hand. Maybe he looks a little too eager.
Tenor sax from the state band. Lots of voters remember that Clinton played the saxophone – he did it on Arsenio Hall’s talk show, for instance, in 1992, tootling away on “Heartbreak Hotel.” But few voters know he once was actually really good. He was first chair in the Arkansas state band and briefly considered devoting his life to music. Then he figured out he was not the next Stan Getz.
Speech script, 1988 Democratic National Convention. In 1988, then-Governor Clinton got his first big chance on the national stage, winning a spot to deliver a key address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. He blew it, big time. The rambling address went on so long (32 minutes) that people cheered when he said, “in conclusion.”
Screen shot of the first official White House website. Clinton overcame that disastrous ’88 speech pretty quickly, didn’t he? Winning the presidency in 1992, he promised a bridge to the future. He at least erected a bridge to the new-fangled World Wide Web, launching the first official White House website in 1994.
Big Mac wrapper. Remember that Clinton used to go out jogging from the White House, and stop at McDonald’s for a snack? We’d say that was indicative of a lot of things, but that would be too judgmental. The Mickey D’s he used to go to is still there, by the way, on lower Connecticut Avenue.
Bottle of black ink. The 1997 Balanced Budget Agreement Clinton struck with Republicans in Congress was perhaps his greatest legislative achievement. It actually did result in a balanced federal budget for the first time in decades. US voters may not see Uncle Sam in the black again in their lifetimes.
Monica Lewinsky's White House pass. Look, you can’t ignore history. It happened. Soon after they, um, began dating, Clinton tugged at the pass hung by a chain around Ms. Lewinsky’s neck and said, This will be a problem, according to testimony given to special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. He was referring to the fact that it showed she was an intern, and thus pretty young.
He was right about the problem thing.