LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS — It was a day of unity in Little Rock, but also a day when four presidents—two Republican and two Democrat— braved some elements from Mother Nature.
While the weather challenged the day, it didn't rain on Bill Clinton's parade as thousands of people came out to pay tribute to him. Pressent w ere President George Bush and his father, the former president, former President Jimmy Carter, former Vice President Al Gore, and the other Democrat defeated by Bush just two weeks ago, Senator John Kerry.
Most of the day was apolitical, with jokes and sighs on stage about the cold weather, and warm remarks about President Clinton’s life and political skills.
But it was a Irish rockstar, U2’s Bono who got everyone to their feet. He performed “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.”
The song about the troubles in Northern Ireland seemed to bring a glow to the festivities, especially to President Clinton who is proudest of his efforts for peace there and across the world.
Throughout the dedication there were some touching moments: the Clintons holding hands, Chelsea hugging her family, Jimmy Carter being a perfect gentleman and drying his wife’s chair, and Barbara Bush snapping pictures of Bono (who knew she was a U2 fan?).
But despite all the mutual admiration— both culturally and politically— there was a moment when Pres. Clinton seized the opportunity to take issue with the current U.S. foreign policy. "For good or ill, we live in an interdependent world. We can't escape each other. And while we have to fight our enemies, we can‘t possibly kill, jail or occupy all of them. Therefore, we have to spend our lives trying to build a global community and an American community."
But President Clinton also spoke of shared experiences, "We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter. But our common humanity matters more."
And at the end, the day did have a feel of something unique to the American political experience. It was a day when the presidential families put their differences aside and dedicated a president's legacy for all to see.
The cost of admission to see the life of the comeback kid is $7, and the message now from Arkansas is that the welcome mat is out.