News and Information

Clinton library open for business
November 18, 2004
US political heavyweights past and present have joined former president Bill Clinton for the opening of his futuristic presidential library.

The $165m (88m) Clinton Presidential Center houses archives from his White House years - with one area dedicated to the fall-out of the Lewinsky affair.

Former leaders George Bush and Jimmy Carter were to speak, as well as the recently re-elected president Bush.

Rock star Bono was to sing live, and Nelson Mandela sent a video tribute.

Up to 40,000 invited guests joined the dignitaries amid persistent rain at the site in Little Rock, Arkansas, where Mr Clinton served as governor before becoming president.

The library, a futuristic glass-and-steel building, has been described by Britain's Economist magazine as "trailer-home chic".

It is estimated to contain around 80 million paper documents archived during Mr Clinton's eight years in the White House, as well as 21 million e-mails and two million photographs, Reuters news agency reports.

I felt I owed it to my native state that allowed me to become president
Bill Clinton

In pictures: Clinton's library
Defeated Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was scheduled to attend, alongside foreign dignitaries including former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres.

Celebrities including Barbara Streisand, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were also expected.

Sensitive issues

Despite the bipartisan opening ceremony, correspondents say the design of the museum inside the centre may re-open some old divisions between supporters of Mr Clinton and his critics.

An assessment of the failed Republican attempt to impeach Mr Clinton over the Lewinsky affair features prominently inside the centre.

The impeachment affair is portrayed as a struggle for power within the US between competing liberal and conservative interest groups, reports claim.

Key phrases - including "character assassination", "politics of persecution" and "rumours and accusations" are given prominence, while Monica Lewinsky's name is mentioned just twice.

Other exhibits focus on the Whitewater property scandal and domestic welfare reform.

Mr Clinton, who was heavily involved in the design, said he hoped the library would teach Americans "what it's like to be president".

"So when people come, I hope they will see, whether they agreed or disagreed with what I did, that people in public life... embrace certain policies and those policies have consequences in the lives of people."

New development

The building is a box-like structure extending over the Arkansas River, built in a rundown warehouse district of Little Rock.

"I wanted to build a building that would capture the imagination of people today and in the decades to come," said Mr Clinton at a meeting of Little Rock's business community on Tuesday.

Reuters news agency noted it is the most expensive of the 12 presidential libraries.

Mr Clinton said he "owed it" to his native state for allowing him to become president.

"I wanted to make a contribution to the development of this city I love so much," he said.

Designed by New York architect James Polshek, the library includes replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room.

The complex also includes a luxury apartment for Mr Clinton as well as a school of public service linked to the University of Arkansas.


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