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Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Unlike some former Presidents including Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton did not tape his phone conversations or meetings. The Watergate and post Watergate investigative eras changed all that. But Clinton still found a way to preserve history while it was happening.
Pulitizer Prize-winning author and Clinton friend Taylor Branch, who spoke at the Clinton School Monday night, had unprecedented and unpublicized access to the former President during his eight years in the Whte House. And the sessions (I believe Taylor told me he had 79 uninterrupted interviews) often lasting until the wee hours of the morning. Most of these occured in the Treaty Room (Clinton’s office in the residence), although some took place in the Oval Office and on the Truman Balcony. Before leaving the White House after an interview session, Taylor would place the tapes from that session in Clinton’s sock drawer (“He had a lot of socks” Taylor said.)
That’s correct: one of the nation’s most historical sets of recordings ever produced was stored in a sock drawer.
These secret sessions were arranged largely by Clinton assistants Nancy Hernreich and Mary Morrison. On most occasions, Taylor would drive his pick up truck to the White House, park it under the Truman Balcony, enter through the Diplomatic Reception Room and be escorted to the family quarters. During some of the interviews, Clinton would also be working crosswood puzzles, eating, helping Chelsea with a project or tinkering with his many trinkets and books. Those who know Clinton confirm he is a highly successful multi-tasker.
When each interview concluded, Taylor would get back in his truck and drive about an hour to his home in Baltimore. On the way, he would talk into a tape recorder himself, detailing the specifics and his own commentary about the conversation he had just had with the President.
Clinton used the transcripts from the tapes stored in the sock drawer to help write his autobiography My Life. The tapes Taylor made while driving home to Baltimore over the eight year period are the centerpieces of his upcoming book, Wrestling History: The Bill Clinton Tapes, which will be published at the end of 2008.
When it’s published, Taylor said he would return to the Clinton School for a book signing. We’re looking forward to it.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Brian Kelly, the editor of US News and World Report, visits the Clinton School tomorrow to discuss the magazine’s rankings of Best Colleges and Universities. Some, including Clnton School Professor Dr. Keith Nitta, question whether the ranking system accurately reflects performance. While I’m a big fan of Nitta’s, I believe the magazine provides a valuable service for reviewing colleges and universities. After all, most ranking systems have some subjectivity to them.
Quite frankly, like some others in higher education, I am much more concerned about the debt load college students are piling up. I’ll ask Brian if he will consider adding another column to his list for each college and university: the percentage of graduates having college loan debts of $10,000 or more to repay after graduation.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Those of us who have cluttered desks and offices are from time to time questioned about organizational skills and efficiency. After all, we have been taught neatness all our lives — from picking up our toys as children to making sure our lawns are mowed as adults. I’ve worked with people who are “neat freaks” and those whose desks are so clean they remind you of a “do not touch” museum artificat.
CBS Sunday Morning’s segment today on “mess” was refreshing. Not only did it feature messy offices, but it conclued that those who worked in cluttered surroundings were 36 percent more efficient in their taks. After years of defending my position, I feel vindicated.
I like working in and around clutter. When I file items away neatly, they are too often gone forever. When they are stacked in piles somewhere in my office, I know where I can locate them.
Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman’s book “A Perfect Mess” was also highlighted on the CBS show. I have the book, and it’s a must read to better understand those who work in cluttered surroundings. It calls for an open minded look at messiness, and I couldn’t agree more.
As Albert Einstein said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empy desk?”
For the record, my favorite “cluttered” office belongs to Professor Hoyt Purvis at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. It is worth a trip to Kimpel Hall on the UofA campus to get a glimpse of this masterpiece. It actually could be a tourist attraction.
My favorite “cluttered” space is the kitchen in the Little Rock home of Bowen Law School Associate Dean John Dipippa and his wife, Karen. Dean Dipippa’s cooking demonstraton of his delicious Italian cuisine is an invitation one should never decline.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Stan Tiner, executive editor of the Biloxi Sun Herald, was at the Clinton School Friday night and gave an excellent presentation about Hurricane Katrina’s impact on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Like Marie Tillman earlier in the week, Stan also received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks. Even with Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, his newspaper didn’t miss a day of circulation and kept its 121-year record of not missing a day in tact. Stan gave copies of the Sun Herald’s post Katrina coverage to the Clinton School. While New Orleans has received far more national and international media attention, Stan’s presentation clearly documented the tragedy that the Mississippi Gulf Coast faced and still faces today.
Several of our students were present including some from Mississippi and others who had been Katrina volunteers. Stan was very generous with the time he spent with them. As I have previously noted, having access to people like Stan and other Clinton School guests is one of the unique advantages of being a Clinton School student.
C-Span filmed Stan’s presentation. So look for it over the next several days.
Since Katrina had such an impact on our region of the country, we at the Clinton School plan to commemorate its anniversary with an annual program. Last year, for the first anniversary, we had Little Rock native and Associated Press photographer Alex Brandon of New Orleans with us. During Katrina, Alex was with the New Orleans Times Picayune.
As I said last night in introducing Stan, we at the Clinton School honor those who weathered the storm and pay tribute to those who didn’t. Let’s hope we never see another hurricane like it. Though, as Stan pointed out, the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico is higher now than it was during Katrina.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Mark Nichols, partner with Wesley K. Clark and Associates, is teaching “American Grand Strategy,” the history of American foreign policy, this semester at the Clinton School. In addition to working with General Clark, Mark has extensive experience with the State Department and with the United States Agency for International Development. He is a graduate of Bard College in New York and received his master’s from Columbia University.
Mark and I serve together on the Lyon College Board of Trustees. He is a practicing professional, and the course he designed specifically for the Clinton School fits our strategy of “academics for the real world.” We’re glad to have him on our team.
Posted by ERIC WILSON – After combating some technological difficulties, we are able to post the interview with Bob Barnett. He talks about the increase of primary debates and whether or not second and third tier candidates can really take advantage of the debate format.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Marie Tillman, the wife of Army Ranger and Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman, spoke at the Clinton School last night. She was accompanied by her brother-in-law, Alex Garwood. Marie and Alex head up the Tillman Foundation which was established after Pat’s death from friendly fire while serving our country in Afghanistan. It was Marie’s first speech since Pat’s death, and we were highly honored that she came to the Clinton School for it. Her speech, as one might expect, has received national and international media attention.
The Tillman Foundation has established an undergraduate leadership program at Arizona State University, which was Pat’s alma mater. Participants become Tillman Scholars and we at the Clinton School hope to recruit Tillman Scholars to our graduate public service program. Yesterday, I hope, was the beginning of a good partnership.
Following her remarks, Marie spent time visiting with our students and having photographs made with them. Marie and Alex then joined some Clinton School staff and students for dinner and candid conversation at Doe’s Eat Place, which became well known during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. As we gathered in Doe’s famous ‘back room,” I recalled occasions where we met there to watch University of Arkansas basketball games on television with President Clinton on his return trips home.
It was a privilege for us to host Marie and Alex. Marie is a gracious, thoughtful and courageous woman who is turning a terrible tragedy into encouraging young people to make a positive difference in the world. The work the Tillman Foundation is doing is worth supporting. Though I never met Pat Tillman, like millions of Americans I was inspired by his example and that of his brother, Kevin, who enlisted with him. And I am now inspired by Marie.
Yes, because I know people will ask, Marie liked the tamales at Doe’s.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Noted Washington attorney Bob Barnett, one of the nation’s premiere author representatives, has five clients running (or soon to be) for President: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barak Obama, Bill Richardson and Fred Thompson. While he represents each of the five in certain legal matters, he is supporting Clinton for President and is advising on her presidential campaign. He is also representing former British Prime Minister Tony Blair with the publication of his new book.
Barnett spoke Monday night at the Clinton School and met with Clinton School students in a private session Tuesday morning.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – I hosted the 30 new Clinton School students to a reception last week at Copper Grill in the new 300 Third Building just down 3rd Street from the Clinton School. Click the picture above for a larger view.
As you can see, we continue to admit candidates with a variety of backgrounds, including five international students hailing from Vietnam, China, South Africa, Brazil and Jordan. Fifteen of the 30 students are men, 15 are women and the average class age is 28 years old. Fifteen of the students have Arkansas connections having been raised, attended college or worked in the state.