William Jefferson Clinton, better known as Bill, was born on August 19, 1946, in a small town called Hope, Arkansas. Bill's father died a few months before he was born, and once he was born his mother left Bill to go live with his grandparents while she moved to New Orleans to finish up nursing school. Bill's grandparents were very strict, and he often credits them for instilling in him the importance of education. After finishing up her nursing degree, Bill's mother returned and remarried a car salesman whose last name was Clinton, so she changed the family name to Clinton. In school, Bill was known as being the best saxophonist in the entire city and excelled academically. Clinton was even selected as the Arkansas representative for the American Legion's Boys Nation, earning him a trip to the White House where he met John F. Kennedy. Some say that this meeting was the symbolic handing over of the torch from early Democratic leadership to modern Democratic leadership. Clinton graduated from high school in 1964 and enrolled in Georgetown University where he majored in international affairs. At Georgetown, Clinton became very active in school politics and worked as a clerk for Senator Fulbright, who was one of Congress's most outspoken critics of the Vietnam War. After graduation, Bill won the Rhodes Scholarship, which allowed him to study at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Upon his return to America, he avoided combat in the Vietnam War by enrolling in the ROTC program at the Arkansas Law School. Upon completion of the Rhodes Scholarship, Clinton enrolled in Yale Law School where he met his future wife, Hillary Rodham. After he graduated from Yale, Bill Clinton thrust himself into the Arkansas political scene.
The Young Governor
In 1974, he challenged Republican incumbent John Paul Hammerschmidt for his seat in the US House of Representatives. Clinton lost the race, but it was much closer than anyone had expected, and the competitive nature of the election made Clinton a rising star in the Democratic Party. Two years later, Clinton was elected state attorney general, and then in 1978, at the age of 32, he easily defeated Republican Lynn Lowe to become one of the youngest governors in American history. As the young governor of Arkansas, Clinton struggled to get his initiatives accomplished due to his inexperience and mishandling of political situations. His subsequent failure to be reelected was devastating, but Clinton admitted his mistakes and was able to regain the governorship of Arkansas in the next election - a position he held for four consecutive terms. By the late 1980s, Clinton sought to increase his political presence and became the leader of the National Governors Association. At the 1988 Democratic National Convention, Clinton sought to announce himself as a future presidential candidate, but he delivered a long, boring speech that was heavily criticized. Clinton was able to make fun of this speech during an episode of the Johnny Carson Show, which helped him rebound very well. In 1992, Clinton easily defeated all of his fellow Democratic presidential candidates and became the Democratic nominee for president. He chose Al Gore to be his running mate.
In the presidential election of 1992, Clinton defeated Republican George H.W. Bush, denying him a second term in office while becoming America's 42nd President. Clinton did receive criticism for rumors of draft dodging and marital infidelity.
In his first term, Clinton struggled to make his mark as Congress was controlled by Republicans. He was able to get the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act passed that increased the number of policemen and implemented harsher punishments for criminal offenses, as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which created a trade alliance between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. He was unable to get his health care reform act passed that would have provided universal health coverage. Nevertheless, his charismatic personality helped to get him reelected to a second term in 1996.
During this second term, Clinton presided over a strong economy. He took measures to lower the unemployment rate, keep inflation low, and to help citizens reach the highest homeownership rates in American history. Clinton is credited with helping the nation reach unprecedented economic prosperity in part due to the "dot-com" boom and the internet's ability to boost sales and connect people all across the globe.
Scandal in the White House
Clinton's reputation also suffered from scandal in his personal life. His second term in the White House was dominated by details of infidelity while president, prompting a congressional investigation and near 24-hour news coverage. In 1998, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives impeached Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice for his actions. The Senate, however, eventually acquitted him of all charges in 1999.
Today, Clinton delivers speeches throughout the world and is involved in many humanitarian causes. Clinton is generally regarded well by historians who rank presidents. He is ranked as the 20th strongest president in American history.