Bill Clinton is finally getting his bridge.
Some 15 years after he envisioned a "Bridge to the 21st Century," nearly seven years after his library and museum opened in Little Rock, and despite a doubling of the price tag to $10 million, the bridge next to the William J. Clinton Presidential Center is set to open early next month, symbolically completing Bubba's post-presidential vision of his legacy. [See a slide show of 10 things Obama can learn from Clinton.]
"His gift for seeing a safe endpoint through the fog is what made him such a masterful president. It is also what continues to make him such an effective world ambassador," says Ken Gormley, dean of the Duquesne University School of Law and author of the bestseller, The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr. "When he invoked the phrase 'building bridges to the 21st century' during his 1996 presidential re-election campaign, he was presiding over a booming economy and a period of prosperity. His vision of using new technology and social programs to create a bridge to a sparkling new, retooled America seemed quite attainable during those halcyon years," adds Gormley.
Recently, though, as the Clinton team has tried to renovate the old Rock Island railroad bridge beside his library into a pedestrian and biking path, it's been hit with setbacks, just like the economy. [Check out U.S. News's new iPad app.]
Still, says Gormley, while "it seems much harder to visualize the glittering, revitalized new nation that Bill Clinton imagined just a few years ago, I would be surprised if Clinton has given up on his dream in the least."
Apparently he hasn't. Word is that Clinton will be at next month's dedication of the renovated bridge, which will connect two parts of a 14-mile trail. And the town and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service are planning to revive the theme that helped Clinton defeat former Sen. Bob Dole in 1996 and retire as a popular president despite numerous scandals.
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR.