Former President Bill Clinton and, former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton came home to Little Rock, Ark. yesterday, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the successful Clinton/Gore 1992 presidential campaign.
The public visit began Saturday morning at the Butler Center Gallery in downtown Little Rock, where at least 1,000 people stood in line for Secretary Clinton’s book signing event. Some people waited in line as long as four hours to meet and greet Clinton and pick up a signed copy of her book.
Clinton’s newest book, What Happened, is a memoir of her campaign for the presidency and outlines the events that she believes led to her losing the election to President Donald Trump. The book signing event was hosted by Books-A-Million and was separate from the rest of the events surrounding the anniversary.
After the book signing, approximately 3,000 people attended the 26th Kumpuris lecture, held at the Statehouse Convention Center, to hear the Clintons speak. The event was set up as a question and answer session moderated by James Carville, former President Clinton’s campaign manager for the 1992 election.
The program began with former presidential campaign volunteer, now Executive Director of the Clinton Foundation, Stephanie Streett’s opening comments.
“This weekend, we’ve come together to celebrate a pivotal time in our nation’s history. When Americans yearned for a president to put people first, and on November 3rd, 1992, they got one,” Streett said.
She went on to explain her own experiences as a volunteer for the campaign, to life in the White House for eight years with the Clintons, to her present position for the Clinton Foundation.
James Carville, Political Strategist, began the panel by asking the Clintons to speak about the 1992 campaign in general. Both Clintons made it a point to thank a group of approximately 600 people who called themselves “The Arkansas Travelers” and traveled around the country, during the campaign, spreading goodwill for Bill Clinton. The Clintons agreed that they didn’t think they would have won without them.
The Clintons spoke about what they took away from their campaign experiences.
“People talked to you about real problems, real dreams, and they wanted real answers. They weren’t interested in how well you could bad talk your opponent,” President Clinton said.
“The big difference between 1992 and certainly 2016 is you felt like you could connect much better and more deeply, and more quickly with people,” said Sec. Clinton
Next, Carville asked the Clintons to speak about the eight years they were in office and the state of the economy when they left it. The former president spoke about building the economy from the bottom up.
“Our theory was, if we gave people incentives to invest everywhere, we focused on the future and trained people for jobs we knew would grow in number, we could drive the unemployment and get rid of the deficit at the same time and grow the economy faster,” President Clinton said.
“The budget was balanced, we had a surplus, and if we had continued the policies of the Clinton administration, we would have eliminated our national debt,” Secretary Clinton said about the state of the economy at the end of her husband’s eight years as president.
The positive economic growth under the Clinton administration is one of the biggest legacies of their time in the White House, among foreign policy and good will, according to the Clinton Presidential Center’s website.
Throughout the lecture, there were mentions of Clinton’s other positive marks that he left on the United States such as releasing GPS to the public, the Human Genome Project which led to adding a three-million-dollar surplus in the economy, and the Internet becoming available to classrooms and homes everywhere.
The Clintons also made comparisons between the current administration and Bill Clinton’s two terms in office.
“He didn’t Tweet about it. He got to work about it,” Sec. Clinton said.
The former president mentioned how today’s politics are more about conflict than cooperation, firmly pitting today’s government against governments of old.
“You have to want this thing to work out. We can’t let this country go away. We can’t let our divisions eat us alive. We can’t trash our democracy,” President Clinton said.
The event ended on a positive note with the former president praising his wife, the former Secretary of State, for running a great campaign and attempting to continue his legacy to “put people first.” Secretary Clinton went on to say that she wrote her book mainly about resilience, both on a personal level as well as a national level. She said,
“Everybody gets knocked down, but the real question is, are you going to get back up?” Sec. Clinton said. “Not everybody will lose a presidential election, but everybody will suffer loss.”
She said that it was her family, friends, and faith that helped get her through the heartbreak of her loss, and that she also read a lot of mystery books in the last year, “because the bad guys always got it in the end.”
Attendance for this event is the highest the Kempuris lecture series has seen so far. This was the 26th lecture that the Frank and Kula Kempuris Distinguished Lecture Series has hosted. The series, sponsored by the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and is offered for free and is open to the public. According to their website, the aim is to bring in distinguished world leaders and artists to enhance the students’ education and for the public to engage in intellectual conversations about important world matters of the present.