“I still believe in a place called Hope.”

Clinton's First Home
Clinton House NHS

In his 1992 Democratic National Convention speech, William Jefferson Clinton ended where it all began for him — in a place called Hope.  Arkansas, that is.

He was born William Jefferson Blythe, III, in 1946.  His father died before he was born, forcing his mother to go back to school to support them.  While she was in nursing school in Louisiana, Little William lived with her parents in Hope.  It was in this, his grandparents’ modest home, that he spent the first four years of his life.  Virginia and little William moved to Little Rock after she finished school and that city claims him, too, but it was here in this place that he learned many of the early lessons that defined his life and his presidency.  After his mother remarried, Bill changed his last name to Clinton to honor the man who raised him as well as have the same name as his half-brother, Roger, with whom he was very close.

Inside the Clinton House Visitor Center

You know the rest of the story… Bill Clinton married Hillary Rodham, became the Governor of Arkansas, and went on to become the 42nd president of the United States; he was elected to two terms — 1992-1996 and 1996-2000.

His grandparents’ house where he got his start is now the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site — indeed, it’s a mouthful! We visited it as we passed through Hope — it’s a small town that’s just a mile off the interstate in the southwest corner of Arkansas. The home is normally open for public tours, although a recent fire closed it off, so we visited the Visitor Center in the house next door. Also on the property is a memorial garden dedicated to Clinton’s faithful and hard-working mother, Virginia.