Clinton breaks ground for library

Thursday, December 6, 2001

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Former President Bill Clinton dedicated the site of his presidential library Wednesday with a message of hope, reading from a letter his widowed mother wrote to her friend in 1946.

"It seemed almost unbearable at the time," Virginia Kelley wrote, "but you see I'm six months pregnant and the thought of our baby keeps me going, and really gives me the whole world before me."

"I hope I didn't let her down," said Clinton, who addressed hundreds of supporters in front of the century-old Choctaw Railroad Station, which is to be part of the library.

The ex-president thanked the city, state, and library developers for their work, calling the project "this next great adventure that you have given me."

The library is scheduled to open in 2004. Until then, a temporary exhibit opening Thursday at the Cox Building downtown will show off some artifacts given to Clinton during his eight years in office. Among the photographs, letters, sculptures and gifts is a glass-encased gold-and-silver horse presented by the Amir of Bahrain.

There are two references to Clinton's impeachment trial. On a wall, next to a photograph of the House of Representatives approving an article of impeachment, is a New York Times headline: "Clinton Acquitted Decisively: No Majority For Either Charge."

Clinton, who was born in Hope and grew up in Hot Springs, taught at the University of Arkansas Law School at Fayetteville.

The library is part of the 27-acre Clinton Presidential Park, to be built on the south bank of the Arkansas River. The $200 million project includes a museum, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and a policy center that will focus on economic empowerment and racial and religious reconciliation. It is to be completed in 2004.

In anticipation, some 100 million documents, 75,000 gifts and artifacts and more than 2 million photographs are being stored in a 53,000-square-foot building a mile away. The collection is the largest in presidential history.

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