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Bill Clinton - Biography

Bill Clinton was the 42nd US president. While his time in office was strewn with controversy, he left office with a sky-high approval rating

Bill Clinton - Biography
Bryony Gooch
US Writer
Updated: 15 November 2023
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If you had to pick one word to describe the Clintons, it would undoubtedly be survivors. The Whitewater scandal, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, health care reform, Monica Lewinsky, impeachment the Clintons' years in the White House were strewn with high-profile controversies. Despite this, however, the charismatic president left the White House at the end of his eight years in office in January 2001 with a sky-high approval rating.

Bill Clinton's early life

William Jefferson Blythe III, born in 1946, changed his surname to Clinton when he was 15 as a gesture to his stepfather. At the age of 16, Bill decided he wanted to be in publich life as an elected official. He wrote in his autobiography: "I loved music and thought I could be very good, but I knew I would never be John Coltrane or Stan Getz", in reference to his hobby as a saxophonist. He continued: "I was interested in medicine and thought I could be a fine doctor, but I knew I would never be Michael DeBakey. But I knew I could be great in public service."

He was inspired further by two singular events in 1963. The first was when he shook hands with President John F. Kennedy at the White House as a Boys Nation senator, and the second was watching Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech on TV. 

The future president attended Georgetown University where he received a Bachelor of Science in foreign service degree in 1968. Not long after, he attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, only he didn't graduate with a degree as he returned to America where he studied at Yale Law School instead. It was there that he met Hillary Rodham in 1970 when they were classmates.

He was a Rhodes Scholar freshly returned from Oxford with southern charm to spare, she a bespectacled, ambitious graduate of prestigious Wellesley College. The couple were married in a low-key ceremony in 1975 with Hillary wearing a dress she'd picked up only the night before. Their daughter Chelsea was born on February 27, 1980, during her father's first term in office as the governor of Arkansas. 


After taking over the presidency in 1992 he got off to a rocky start with the question of gays in the military and the ill-fated Hillary-led health care initiative of 1993, but eventually hit his stride. And despite the fact that the US government had been fractured by the impeachment scandal, he worked tirelessly towards peace in the Middle East, making some very real achievements. 

For her part, Hillary - who was born on October 26, 1947 - would redefine the role of First Lady. Concerned more with policy than pleasantry, she fought tirelessly for universal health care, education reform and human rights concerns. She also penned a best-selling book on child development entitled It Takes A Village, winning a Grammy for her recording of the book on tape. 

Events which took place during her husband's term in office mean the name of America's 42rd president will be forever linked to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, however. In 1998 and early 1999, Clinton denied allegations of an inappropriate affair with the intern, but eventually admitted to misconduct and an impeachment trial loomed something which had not occurred since President Nixon's in 1973.T

Throughout the revelations the First Lady stood by her man, and later went on to turn the wave of sympathy generated into a successful bid for the Senate. Having put the turbulent days of her husband's presidency behind her, Hillary focused upon her own political future. In 2000 she became senator for New York, and seven years later announced her decision to run as a candidate in the 2008 presidential elections. While she was considered her party's front-runner, Barack Obama won instead becoming the first Black american president. He made Hillary his Secretary of State. 

While Hillary ran for president a second time in 2016, she lost to Republican candidate and business mogul Donald Trump. She has not since expressed a wish to rerun for the role.

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