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Biography of Bill Clinton: Arkansas Governor to the Presidency

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born August 19th, 1946 in Arkansas, Bill Clinton excelled as a student early on. An encounter with President John F. Kennedy early in his life convinced him he was destined for a life in politics. After finishing a Rhodes scholarship in England and law school at Yale, his political life began when he was elected the Attorney General of Arkansas. Next he went on to that state’s governor’s mansion, and he followed that trail right to the White House when he took over as President in 1993. Though his presidency was fraught with controversy, he remained popular with the American public. In this video, learns more about the life and accomplishments of Bill Clinton.

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Biography of Bill Clinton

He was the first Democratic president since FDR to secure a second term. Learn more about the life and accomplishments of Bill Clinton.

Early Life

William Jefferson Blythe III was born August 19th, 1946 in Hope, Arkansas. After his father died prior to his birth, he took stepfather Roger Clinton’s family name.

School Career

His success at school was highlighted by impressive marks and a place in the jazz band. In June 1963, Clinton met President John F. Kennedy as a delegate of the American Legion’s Boys Nation, and this solidified Clinton’s desire to serve the public.


Clinton entered Washington’s Georgetown University in 1964. He was heavily involved in campus politics, and interned for Democrat Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. Like his mentor, Clinton opposed the ongoing Vietnam War.

Rhodes Scholar

In 1968, Clinton graduated with a degree in international affairs. He was then offered a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University in England. After being drafted, he returned to the States. He avoided serving by enrolling in the University of Arkansas’ ROTC program. When he returned to England in the fall of that year, he again became eligible for the draft, but he was never chosen.

Back in Arkansas

After finishing his Rhodes scholarship, Clinton studied at Yale Law School. Prior to his graduation in 1973, he met fellow student Hillary Rodham, and the pair married in October ‘75. They relocated when Bill took a teaching job at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville Law School, and this sparked his entrance into politics.

Governor of Arkansas

In 1974, he ran for the House of Representatives but lost. Two years later he was elected the Attorney General of Arkansas. In 1979, he became one of the country’s youngest governors when he took that office in Arkansas. While Clinton improved health care and education, key mistakes like an unpopular tax hike cost him re-election in 1980. He regained the public trust, and in 1982 Clinton began his four consecutive term run as Governor of Arkansas.

National Profile

By the end of the ‘80s, Clinton attempted to raise his profile by serving on national political associations. He also gave Michael Dukakis’ nomination speech at 1988’s Democratic National Convention, though this appearance was criticized as long and boring. Clinton used this to his advantage with an appearance on “The Tonight Show.”

Road to the Presidency

In 1992, Clinton won the Democratic nomination for that year’s Presidential election, and chose Al Gore as his running mate. A number of issues were addressed by Clinton’s political opponents during the campaign, including his alleged marital infidelity and avoidance of the Vietnam War. He was also highly criticized for having admitted to smoking – though not inhaling – marijuana. However, he capitalized on President George H.W. Bush’s vulnerability to defeat the incumbent and win the presidency. On January 20th, 1993, Bill Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States.

Early Years as President as Reelection

In the early years of Clinton’s presidency, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislation was passed and the North American Free Trade Agreement was ratified. After a disastrous attempt at health care reform, Clinton tried to salvage his reputation by returning to centrist stances. His tactics worked, and in 1996 he defeated Bob Dole to secure his second term as President.


Clinton’s greatest accomplishment was economic stability. However, he was definitely not free from controversy. His reputation took a hit in 1998 when he was impeached for denying he had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He was eventually acquitted by the Senate, and enjoyed high approval ratings as he left office in 2001.

After Leaving Office

Clinton remained popular after his time in office. He kept up his profile as a public speaker and with a 2004 autobiography entitled “My Life.” He also often worked with the United Nations, and founded the philanthropic William J. Clinton Foundation. In 2009, he successfully secured a pardon from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il for two imprisoned American journalists.


Despite being the first president to be impeached since Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton proved himself as one of the most important modern leaders due to his charisma, political choices and his down-to-earth demeanor.

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