Sat, Nov 20, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Clinton presidential library opens

AFP , LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS,

Former US president Bill Clinton on Thursday drank in the praises of old friends and foes, past presidents and rock stars at a glitzy but waterlogged ceremony to formally open his presidential library.

"Welcome to my rainy library dedication," Clinton told an umbrella-toting crowd of nearly 30,000 people who braved a torrential downpour to witness a rare gathering of the exclusive White House club, with former presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush, as well as President George W. Bush.

For Clinton, 58 and still recovering from open heart surgery two months ago, the ceremony was a nostalgic chance to revel once again in the national spotlight

"The record is all in there. What we did at home, what we did abroad," Clinton said, standing on the podium in front of the US$165 million, glass-and-steel library housing his presidential archive.

"I want young people to see not only what I did with my life, but to see what they could do with their lives. Because this is mostly the story of what we, the people, can do when we work together," he said.

The tone of the day was one of political magnanimity as the partisan bitterness that marked the recent presidential election was temporarily buried under goodwill.

"He was an innovator, a serious student of policy and a man of great compassion," President Bush said of the man he had once openly disdained for compromising the dignity of his office.

"In the White House, the whole nation witnessed his brilliance and mastery of detail, his persuasive power and his persistence," Bush added.

In a ceremony tailored to the tastes of a president known to his Secret Service detail as "Elvis," Bono and The Edge from the Irish rock band U2 provided the headline entertainment.

Reviewing his own record of eight years in office, Clinton highlighted his people-oriented social policies at home and his efforts to promote peace overseas.

"Even when we fell short, we pushed forward," he said, citing his inability to bring lasting peace to the Middle East as one of his greatest disappointments.

The generous tributes for Clinton included some humorous irony from former president Bush, who saw his own ambitions of a second term in the White House scuppered by Clinton's renowned campaigning skills in 1992.

"Simply put, he was a natural. He made it look too easy. Oh, how I hated him for that," said the elder Bush.

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