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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Clinton Library opens

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

braving the elements
Former presidents praise Clinton's presidential career

Thousands of Arkansans stood in the rain for hours Nov. 18 in Little Rock for the chance to see the state's most famous son, William Jefferson Clinton, open his $165-million presidential library.

"Bill Clinton was born into trying circumstances, but today it can be said he forever remained the man from Hope," said former President George H. Bush.

Hollywood celebrities including Robin Williams, Barbara Streisand and Morgan Freeman, Sen. John Kerry and former Vice President Al Gore listened as Bush, former President Jimmy Carter and President George W. Bush lavished praise on America's 42nd President.

"As a governor, as a candidate and as president, Bill Clinton brought insight, wisdom and determination to bear on the issues that he addressed," said former President Jimmy Carter.

The elder Bush, whom Clinton defeated in the 1992 presidential race, said Clinton was a formidable adversary on the campaign trail.

"Trust me, I learned this the hard way," the elder Bush said to rousing laughter.

Bush said despite Clinton's rocky political career, which included allegations of adultery and an impeachment trial by Congress in 1998, he was a fighter who was underestimated by his opponents.

"He made the comeback his trademark. And therein lies the greatest lesson ever offered to future generations: Never give up, never give in, keep on fighting," Bush said.

As each president spoke a crowd of approximately 30,000 was deluged by heavy rains.

Security did not allow many of the spectators to bring their umbrellas into the grandstands which added to the discomfort.

Despite the wind and rain, people remained in line for over an hour after the program started to catch a glimpse of the former president.

The warmest comments of the day may have been delivered by President George W. Bush.

Bush said Clinton "led our country with optimism and a great affection for the American people."

The president recalled a humorous story from Saline County in which a son asked his father why he liked Bill Clinton so much. He said "Son, he'll look in your eye, he'll shake your hand, he'll hold your baby, he'll pet your dog -- all at the same time."

The ceremony reached its crescendo as Clinton took the podium.

"I want to thank the people of my beloved home state for your love, your friendship, the trust, the sacrifices you so willingly made when we worked together here and when you carried me to the White House," Clinton said.

Clinton said he wanted his library, which has a unique bridge-like shape, to symbolize how Americans need to bridge the gaps between themselves and others in the 21st century.

"The thing I want most is for people to come to this library, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, to see that public service is noble and important," said Clinton.

Clinton thanked President Bush for his remarks and said "You know, I'm the only person in the United States of America that likes (both) George Bush and John Kerry."

The former president ended his speech by asking Americans who reside in red and blue states to work together for the good of our country.

"We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more," Clinton said.

The ceremony ended with a standing ovation as Chelsea Clinton presented her father with the key to his library.

The library includes a museum, a school of public service and archive.

The library is now open to the public.

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