Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bill Clinton: Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow / A Dispatch

2.57 p.m. A friend emails: "What are you doing tonight?" My reply: Clinton is in town for a speech so I'll be listening to him give the same speech he's given for the last six years.

3 p.m. "What's he here for?" she asks. Kicking off the inaugural lecture in the Frank and Kula Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series at the Clinton Library.

3.02 p.m. She lobs back an email. "Who are Frank and Kula Kumpuris?" Former Clinton supporters before they died and their sons are FOBs.

3.04 p.m. Another email. "Say no more." Already someone is bored with Clinton and he probably hasn't even landed in the city. A thought. Is he running on Clinton time? I might not be home until 10 or later. Egad.

5.48 p.m. Getting ready and discovered Clinton had been in the city all day. There was an earlier event but I did not get a media notification. Why? Apparently it was run by the Clinton Foundation and they had outside PR folks. I guess they used a selective media list for invitees.

6.20 p.m. Arrive. Through the metal detectors. Quickly crammed with other reporters into a stuffy elevator. Hope this thing doesn't stop.

6.27 p.m. Reporters can't go into the library's Great Hall yet. The Kumpuris family has asked that guests be seated first before reporters are allowed in. Only TV can do a pre-set. Reporters are allowed to sit in the library's replica of the Cabinet Room. Lucky me, I'm sitting in the Dept. of Justice chair. Note: Table needs dusting.

6.35 p.m. I learn a lot of reporters didn't know about the earlier event with Clinton. I don't feel so bad.6.47 p.m. After receiving bottles of water, we are ushered in.

7.10 p.m. Still waiting on Clinton.

7.11 p.m. Lights dim. People hish. Swanky jazz music plays. The mood is set. I hope this is a quickie.7.16 p.m. Still waiting. Is Bill watching Hill on the debate?

7.17 p.m. Showtime. Stephanie Streett, the Clinton Foundations' exec director, introduces special guests (Wesley Clark in the house.

7.18 p.m. Dr. Drew Kumpuris, a well-known cardiologist, has never introduced a president who happens to be a family friend. The one thing that resonates in his mind about Clinton? His 1991 theme song – "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." Why? Clinton is a president that reminds as we are to think about tomorrow every day.

7.21 p.m. Ta da! Bill Clinton appears out of nowhere in a black suit (navy?), blue shirt and salmon tie to a standing ovation. What door did he enter? Had he been there the whole time? Sneaky. He jokes to Kumpuris: "Even when I was younger, you said I had an ugly heart."

7.22 p.m. Another joke: "I'll probably be the cheapest speaker you'll get."

7.24 p.m. Clinton begins his sermon on what is wrong with the world. "We live in a time when thinking is devalued too much." He recommends Ron Suskind's book "One Percent Solution." It would be fun to be in a book club with Clinton.

7.26 p.m. Talk turns to Iraq. The problem facing the world? Not poverty, global warming or terrorism, but identity. How we view our relationships. This is going to be deep.

7.27 p.m. Lots of stats follow.7.29 p.m. Clinton is on to social groups and habits. He says if four guys go out for a beer and one has too much, pretty soon four guys are drinking too much. I can think of four guys right now drinking too much at Vino's.

7.31 p.m. The world has three profound challenges. The first: Inequality.

7.32 p.m. Fact: One in four deaths around the globe will come from TB, AIDS or malaria this year.

7.33 p.m. Fact: Half the world's people live on less than $2 a day.

7.35 p.m. Clinton should be a professor. Hey, that makes sense. He does have a school named after him. Why doesn't he teach there?

7.38 p.m. Fact: There is a steady increase of people working full time and still falling below the poverty line.

7.39 p.m. More facts. Makes my head swimmy.

7.40 p.m. Second problem in the world: It's insecure. "As you might imagine, I'm home alone a lot and I watch the evening news, something I didn't do when I was president." One image that has jumped out at him: Romanians killing chickens because of bird flu. "That's a good story … along with a local crime story and whether Brittney Spears has grown her hair out."

7.41 p.m. More stats: Wars killed 100 million people in the 20th century. We have a long way to go before terrorism will kill that many. The thing with terrorism, Clinton says, is that we all think we can be a victim. We are victimized. So true.

7.42 p.m. Third problem: The world is unsustainable. Don't worry just about global warming. Worry, too, about resource depletion. Plants, animals, top soils, trees disappearing.

7.44 p.m. Forget the gloom. Clinton says he is optimistic. (Maybe because he thinks Hillary will win.)

7.45 p.m. More stats but I'm hungry.

7.46 p.m. "The most expensive thing you can in the modern world is go to war."

7.47 p.m. Energy independence can create new jobs and mobilize people. Examples: Denmark and Great Britain.

7.49 p.m. Clinton thinks it is crazy to go into a deficit when the country is at war. "It was immoral for me to get a tax break when we are at war."

7.53 p.m. Press perk up at Hillary mention. "I agree with Hillary on this we are safer than we were before 9.11." End of Hillary. More stats.

7.54 p.m. Fact: 99.9 percent of humans are genetically the same. Most people spend their time worrying about that one-tenth difference.

7.58 p.m. Clinton is globetrotting. Literally. Malawi, United Kingdom, Indonesia. I'm confused. I want to see his passport. Do former presidents have passports? Hmmm. I never thought about that before.

8.03 p.m. He says "Last story." It's a reflection on his work after the tsunami and how he saw the most beautiful child ever in Indonesia. Bill Clinton could have been a preacher, no doubt.

8.04 p.m. Clinton saw a three-day old baby in Indonesia after the tsunami and was asked to name it. He wanted a name for new beginnings. The name chosen: Dawn. A novelist couldn't make this stuff up.

8.05 p.m. You can tell Clinton hates getting old. He mentioned earlier his hair getting whiter, him being 60, the fact that the brain keeps working into the sixties and seventies. Poor thing. His birthday is Aug. 19. The Clinton trivia I know.

8.10 p.m. The End. Standing ovation. They are not playing Fleetwood Mac, are they? Oh yes, they are. They should have played John Lennon's "Imagine." That's what Clinton wanted the crowd to do. Imagine no poverty. Imagine solar energy. You get the picture.

8.11 p.m. Reception follows. Press not invited.

8.12 p.m. We are herded out to the elevator. The guard says the elevator is for the president. We're stuck until it's figured out the elevator is for the press, not the president. Sounds alike. We don't get prez treatment though.

8.15 p.m. I spy a baby grand piano, exotic flowers on tables, a fancy bar as I'm rushed toward the front door. Pretty. Fit for a prez, but not press.


Constance said...

I loved this piece. It was like I went with you. Thanks for the experience!

Saline County, Arkansas Photos said...

Clinton is bored with his life.