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Look into a president’s life at Clinton museum

CR Rae
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Victorville Daily Press

The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park sits on the banks of the Arkansas River in Little Rock and offers visitors a look into the life and history of the 42nd president of the United States.

It opened in 2004 and is home to the Little Rock offices of the Clinton Foundation, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The center is well worth a stop when traveling to or through this city that offers a deep look into our country’s history.

The library has permanent and temporary exhibits offering information about the family life of the Clintons and his time as president. A free app is available for Apple and Android devices that includes exhibit tours with photos, videos and a museum guide, narrated by Clinton. The app allows for visitors to look and take in the exhibits at their own pace. Docents are also throughout the museum to offer stories, information and history of the library and museum. Some of them have personal stories about the Clintons and are eager to share with visitors.

Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, three months after his father died in a car accident. He was born William Jefferson Blythe III. While he was in high school, he changed his last name to that of his stepfather, Roger Clinton.

In 1975 he married Hillary Rodham. Clinton met her while he was a law student at Yale. She grew up outside of Chicago, in Park Ridge. The library museum tells the story as visitors travel from room to room to learn more about the former president and his wife, a presidential candidate.

Visitors will see full-size replicas of the Clinton oval office and cabinet room and get a look at a presidential limousine, a 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood. It took General Motors employees in Warren, Michigan, three years to complete the three presidential vehicles. The president’s limo had a state-of-the-art communications system to connect him with people anywhere in the world.

Also on the grounds, the Clinton School of Public Service is housed in a former Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad station built in 1899. The school offers a two-year graduate program with the idea to build leadership in many areas of public service, giving students the experience needed for careers in government, nonprofit and volunteer service.

Taking a walk around the property, visitors can view the activity on the Arkansas River. Take the railroad pedestrian bridge that crosses the Arkansas, offering great views of the Clinton Presidential Center and the river. The building is very modern and unique and extends over the river to represent a “bridge to the 21st century,” part of Clinton’s campaign promise. The exhibits are state-of-the-art with video stations and interactive collections. There is a penthouse suite above the museum where Clinton will often stay.

Allow about three hours for a visit to the presidential center. Make sure throughout the visit to talk to staff members and volunteers — they are truly knowledgeable and friendly. Look out the big windows past the ticket and welcome desk and be sure to ask what the big white circle is.

Although the museum is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 there are virtual exhibits online. Watch for the opening of the museum and hours at clintonlibrary.gov.

For more information on Little Rock, visit littlerock.com.