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Early reviews on the library


The Washington Post, Dec. 5, 2001 LITTLE ROCK — Former President Bill Clinton turned a symbolic spade of earth in his native Arkansas on Wednesday to break ground for his presidential library and foundation, pledging that it would advance his public policy goals. … In a gentle dig at President Bush, who has triggered controversy by acting to restrict access to presidential documents, Clinton said historians would be free to judge his eight-year administration, which ended in January. “When the classification period ends — and at this library, it will end — you will be able to read the memos that went back and forth to see, for example, how we decided to get involved in Bosnia and Kosovo,” Clinton said. “The people who work for me said the only reason I don’t want to seal my records is that nobody can read my notes, anyway,” Clinton joked. —Steve Barnes, Dec. 6, 2001 Former President Bill Clinton broke ground Wednesday in Little Rock on the $104 million Clinton Presidential Center in front of a crowd of supporters and dignitaries and about a dozen union members unhappy that the construction will involve non-union workers. Historical preservationists in Little Rock are also angry that a century-old freight depot, built by former African-American slaves, was torn down to make way for Clinton’s presidential library. Union protesters were kept well outside the fenced in, invitation-only event, where Clinton made his remarks. They marched peacefully, carrying signs reading “What about us, Bill?” and “Thanks for Nothing.” —Steve Brawner The New York Times, June 10, 2004 Every day, a worker climbs to the roof of the Clinton Presidential Center here and hoists three seven-foot-high numbers onto a steel frame. The numbers tell drivers on Interstate 30, just west of the site, how many days remain until Nov. 18, when Bill Clinton is expected to open the $175 million project that embodies his post-presidential ambitions. … Richard M. Olcott, a partner in the [architectural] firm who collaborated with James S. Polshek on the project, said he presented several schemes to Mr. Clinton, but as soon as he mentioned the bridge idea, “there was no turning back.” Mr. Olcott recalled the moment: “President Clinton said, ‘It’s a bridge to the 21st century,’ and several aides in the room groaned. And he said, ‘No one ever liked my bridge to the future — except me and the voters.’ ” … What people can’t see at the museum, they may be able to see elsewhere in Little Rock — a city obsessed with Clintoniana. … The Holiday Inn Presidential Center has filled its lobby with Clinton memorabilia (including “autographed” photos of the presidential pets Socks and Buddy). The hotel has recently changed the name of its restaurant to Camp David. All over town, taxi drivers are dusting off their Clinton anecdotes. … The cabdrivers may be free to embellish, but the museum — with its millions in government financing — will be held to a higher standard. … The National Archives and Records Administration will have final say over the exhibitions. “We don’t expect exhibits to make the president look bad,” said Sharon Fawcett, the agency’s deputy assistant archivist for presidential libraries. “But we do expect to have a clear statement of facts, and acknowledgment that there are two sides to the story.” If not, she said, “we don’t have to accept the building.” —Fred Bernstein The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2004 With the airlines hyping discounts as part of their annual promotion of fall travel, now’s the time to plan an autumn getaway to San Francisco, Boston — or Little Rock, Ark. In a little-noticed side effect of the low-cost carrier movement, airlines are pushing some unusual destinations as fall vacation spots. With Southwest squaring off against US Airways, you can jet off from Philadelphia to Jacksonville, Fla., for $129 round-trip. There are good deals to Syracuse, N.Y., ($255 round-trip from Phoenix), while flights to Dayton, Ohio, from Atlanta are $160. And though Little Rock may not trump Vermont for many leaf-peepers, it offers mountain foliage, spas at nearby Hot Springs, the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library — and some of the bigger bargains from Baltimore with $198 fares. … —Paula Szuchman Newsweek, Sept. 13, 2004 The Clinton presidential library in Little Rock stunningly evokes the “bridge to the 21st century” he envisioned. … But will the building … stand the test of time? Just as presidents try to shape the long view of history, Clinton has had a powerful hand in this tangible piece of his legacy, both in the building’s dramatic design … and in its potential impact on the city of his political roots. Presidential libraries — with the exception of I. M. Pei’s Kennedy library on Boston’s waterfront — aren’t known for their architecture. … These libraries are both repositories of documents that serve scholars, and tourist attractions (on average: 150,000 visitors a year) with exhibits that range from polite civics lessons to the Disneyesque (the Johnson library in Texas displays a life-size, robotized, talking LBJ in a cowboy hat). … Like Clinton himself, the library is larger than life: bold and dramatic. Yet, as he wanted, it’s also people-friendly and light. It campaigns hard for your vote of “Wow!” … —Cathleen McGuigan

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