Bill Clinton’s American Dream

“I believe in the American Dream. I have lived it. Where else could an ordinary boy from Hope, AK grow up to become President?” So writes former President Bill Clinton in his foreword to The Stephen L. White Photograph Collection. The American Dream is the thematic element linking these photographs, which are organized into three categories—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

President Bill Clinton’s Introduction to the Catalogue:

Clinton continues: “During the eight years I was privileged to serve as President of the United States, I thought about the American Dream every day. As President, I wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to realize his or her potential, to make the most of his or her life, to live out the American dream. Even in America, land of opportunity, that has not been easy for many. This is why I am such a strong believer in education.

Growing up in the segregated South in Little Rock, AK, I was well aware that not everyone had equal opportunities, although my grandparents and parents always taught me to treat everyone with equal respect. Dr. Martin Luther King articulated the hopes of millions that the American Dream could be a true possibility for all Americans. His dream was a simple one: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. ‘We hold these truths to be self evident; that all men are created equal.’

I have never forgotten Dr. King’s words, nor the courage of others who crusaded for the freedom to strive, the freedom to realize one’s potential. I remember the Little Rock Nine, boys and girls who displayed the greatest courage, and for what? The simple right to go to school. I have never forgotten their bravery, nor that of Rosa Parks who defied the authorities for an equally basic right—to sit down on a bus.

Millions today all over the world lack other basic rights—the right to food, shelter and good health. They dream of simply being able to provide for themselves and their families. In our interdependent world, their problems are our problems. I hope to be able to make a contribution towards solving some of the most difficult problems in the developing world—poverty, hunger, disease, and deprivation of basic human rights. The American Dream is not just for Americans. The fundamental concepts underlying the American Dream—liberty, equal opportunity, equality under the law—should be extended through the world.” 

Related Reading: Introduction to the Catalogue for the Johnson Publishing Co. Collection and An Introduction to the Catalogue by Eric Marcus

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