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Character Sketches

Character Sketches
Chapter 41: America Confronts the Post-Cold War Era, 1992 - 2004


William Bill Jefferson Clinton, (1946 )

Bill Clinton served many terms as Arkansas governor before being elected the nations forty-second president in 1992.

Clinton was born William Blythe in Arkansas. His father died in an automobile accident before Bill was born, and after his mother remarried, Bill took her new husbands last name. Perhaps the most decisive event in Clintons early life was winning a scholarship to Georgetown University, a Catholic university in Washington, D.C. He so impressed some of his teachers that they suggested that he might consider becoming a priest, until he told them that he was a Southern Baptist.

After graduation from Georgetown in 1968, Clinton won a Rhodes Scholarship to study politics at Britains Oxford University. After graduation from Yale University Law School, Clinton returned to Arkansas in 1973 to teach at the University of Arkansas Law School. In 1975 he married Hillary Rodham, a fellow Yale Law school graduate and Arkansas law professor. Clinton ran for Congress in 1974 but lost to a popular Republican. In 1976 he won election as attorney general of Arkansas.

At the time of his election as chief executive of Arkansas in 1978, Clinton was the nations youngest governor. He lost a race for reelection but regained the office in 1982 and every two years thereafter until his election as president.

Quote: We are on the verge of a new way of doing things, grounded in our most enduring values, a philosophy that says America owes all of us an opportunity if we will assume responsibility for ourselves, our community, and our country. No more something for nothing. Were all in this together. (Speech, July 1993)

REFERENCE: David Maraniss, First in His Class (1994).


George Walker Bush (1946 )

The presidency of the United States is only the second public office to which George W. Bush was elected, after the governorship of Texas.

George W. Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and moved with his family to Texas at the age of two. He is the oldest of five living children (four boys and one girl) of George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush (another girl died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3). While his father was a rising star in Republican politics, George W. attended Philips Andover Academy in Massachusetts and Yale University, graduating in 1968. After several years of dissolution, drifting, unemployment, and occasional political work in Texas, Alabama, and Florida, he entered Harvard University, earning a Master of Business Administration degree in 1975.

He then moved to the west Texas town of Midland, and married a school librarian, Laura Welch. His younger brother Jeb, now governor of Florida, was considered the future politician of the family, while George W.s talents were widely disregarded. This judgment seemed confirmed when he ran for Congress from Midland in 1978, but lost to a Democrat.

The several oil business ventures he attempted, the Arbusto and Spectrum Companies, were not very successful either, but earned enough, along with family support, for him to become the lead investor in buying the Texas Rangers baseball team for $600,000 in 1988 (he eventually sold his share a decade later for $15 million).

In 1986 he underwent a born again religious conversion, and moved from his familys traditional Episcopal faith into the Methodist Church. In 1994 Bush was nominated by the Republicans to run against the popular Democratic Texas governor Ann Richards, and his victory was considered a great upset. His re-election victory with 65% of the vote propelled him into the leading position for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.

Quote: Our country has been through a long and trying period, with the outcome of the presidential election not finalized for longer than any of us could imagineI believe things happen for a reason, and I hope the wait of the last five weeks will heighten a desire to move beyond the bitterness and partisanship of the recent past. (Victory speech, December 13, 2000).



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