Policy Alcoves

A series of 28-foot columns defines two major areas of thematically organized exhibit alcoves. These towering columns also serve as bookshelves for almost 5,000 archival boxes that hold nearly eight percent of the actual historical documents of the administration. The alcoves, arranged on both sides of the hall, present an in-depth look at the way in which the President addressed the major issues of the times.

 
From the initiatives that produced the longest period of economic prosperity in our history, to the continuing question of adequate health care for all Americans, to the threat of terrorism, to the ever more partisan struggles in our political life, to the implications of global warming, to the safety of our streets and the soundness of our children’s education—these alcoves remind us of the tasks that history laid upon this last administration of the millennium and how President Clinton’s team came at every problem with focus and a plan for the future.
 
When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, he had already developed a road map for the future and was set to address the many issues facing the nation. The President’s approach to policymaking involved gathering a broad range of opinions and expert advice. He and his team would then frame each issue as a challenge to which they would fashion a response. 
 
The Policy Alcoves allow visitors to delve into the range of issues that the President and his team dealt with over the course of his administration, and to learn how they responded. Important documents, photographs, and video, as well as a variety of historic artifacts create an in depth look at the work of the Clinton Administration.

Restoring the Economy

Bill Clinton believed that in the 21st century, more than in any previous era, America’s leadership in the world would depend on the strength of its economy at home. To put America’s house in order, the President proposed a new, three-part economic strategy: balancing the budget for the first time in a generation; investing in people and technology; and opening new foreign markets for U.S. products.
Over the next eight years, these policies ushered in the longest, strongest economic expansion in American history—creating nearly 23 million new jobs, turning record budget deficits into a record surplus, reducing interest rates, and paying down the national debt. In the 1990s, the rising tide of the U.S. economy lifted all boats: in contrast to previous decades, every income group—the rich, the middle class, and especially the poor—saw their incomes increase. One hundred times more people moved out of poverty in the 1990s than during the economic recovery of the previous decade.

Putting People First

By 1992, people were working longer hours and spending less time with their children. Incomes kept going down, while the cost of health care, housing, and education kept going up. Millions of working parents were supporting their children on the one hand and their elderly parents on the other. More working Americans were falling into poverty, and social ills were on the rise. The welfare system had become a trap for America’s poor and a symbol of government failure.
 
Since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Americans have embraced the idea that the federal government has basic obligations to ensure the health and security of its workers. Social Security has kept millions of elderly Americans from poverty; unemployment insurance has kept families afloat when a parent loses a job; Medicaid and Medicare have protected the poor and elderly in times of illness.
 
Bill Clinton argued that government could be a force for positive change in people’s lives. As President, he committed his administration to reforming welfare and extending quality health care and retirement security to millions of Americans.

Building One America

In the late 20th century, the United States was growing more diverse as immigrants from every part of the world came seeking a chance at the American Dream. At the same time, for many of our citizens—some whose ancestors arrived on these shores in slave ships—the full promise of America remained out of reach. Social and economic gaps that divided our country were widening. Then, in 1992, riots ripped through Los Angeles. Americans of all backgrounds wondered whether our sense of community was being lost.
 
Bill Clinton took office determined to bring people together. In 1993, he created AmeriCorps, making it possible for Americans to earn money for college by “getting things done” in communities across the country. He also launched the first White House effort to promote racial reconciliation, and established a presidential office to pursue that goal. Through his policies, as well as through the power of the bully pulpit, the President sought to demonstrate that we, as Americans, could celebrate our differences while reaffirming our common humanity.

Making Communities Safer

In the 30 years before President Clinton took office, violent crime in America had more than tripled. As communities struggled, the federal government, bogged down in a partisan debate over the merits of punishment versus prevention, offered little support.
 
President Clinton sought to restore a sense of responsibility both to government and to the people who lived in troubled communities. He believed that by expanding the number of police, giving them the tools to do their jobs, and creating partnerships between communities and law enforcement, we could build a safer America. For eight years, the Clinton Administration pursued the two objectives of tougher punishment and smarter prevention—combining stiffer penalties and more police with innovative programs for youth and commonsense gun laws.

Results were dramatic. The crime rate fell every year that Bill Clinton was President, reaching a 27-year low by the time he left office. The murder rate dropped to its lowest point since 1966, and gun-related violence was reduced by nearly half.

Science and Technology

In 1993, the information age was in its early stages. The Internet had only 50 sites, e-mail was used mainly by scientists, and few industries had begun to harness the power of information technology. President Clinton and Vice President Gore, however, recognized that a profound social and economic transformation was under way. They set out to accelerate innovation and, just as important, to ensure that all Americans would reap the benefits of the new era.
 
Although decades of U.S. government investment had made many of the technological innovations possible, by 1992 America’s commitment was lagging behind its competitors’. The Clinton Administration put the United States back in the lead, making record investments in cutting-edge research and development.

Change on this scale brought new challenges as well as new opportunities. President Clinton worked to make sure that science, especially in the realms of genetics and biotechnology, would serve humanity without undermining our values, freedoms, and rights.

Learning Across a Lifetime

American prosperity has long depended on the education of its citizens. Taking office at a time when vanishing jobs and economic competition from overseas were undermining the nation’s spirit, Bill Clinton believed America could prosper again if more people could gain the skills to compete in the emerging information-based economy.
 
Over the next eight years, millions of Americans got a better chance of acquiring the education they needed to make the most of their lives. Academic standards were raised. Class sizes were reduced. Pre-school, after-school, and adult education programs were expanded. In addition, the nation saw the largest increase in college aid since the GI Bill sent a generation of veterans to school following World War II.

As a result, America’s public school students, even those in disadvantaged communities, raised their test scores. A greater percentage than ever went on to college. More adults got the tools they needed to find good jobs. And America entered the 21st century the undisputed leader

The Fight for Power

The 1990s were a decade of intense partisanship, with a growing ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans. From the start of the Clinton Presidency, the administration’s opponents waged an unprecedented fight for power. Seeking to steer America sharply to the right, Republican leaders pursued a radical agenda through radical means.
 
They used new tools and tactics—lawsuits, investigations, new partisan media, front groups, a secret slush fund, and deeply divisive rhetoric—in their battle for political supremacy. The normal give-and-take of public life gave way to what many called the “politics of personal destruction.”

After the Republicans won the Congress in 1994, the fight for power culminated in two government shutdowns and an impeachment battle, bringing partisan opposition to a new high and attempting to deny the very legitimacy of the President’s election.

Throughout, the President and his administration continued to enjoy high public approval ratings and to implement much of their agenda. However, these battles took a heavy toll, affecting the lives, reputations, and financial well-being of many public servants and private citizens, and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on investigations.

Protecting the Earth

At the dawn of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt challenged the nation to take “the long look ahead” and ensure that one generation’s progress does not come at the expense of future generations. Almost a century later, President Clinton and Vice President Gore took up this challenge, rededicating the nation to protecting precious natural treasures at home while restoring America’s environmental leadership abroad.
 
Despite pitched battles with entrenched interests focused on self-serving short-term gains, the Clinton Administration protected more land than any other administration in history. It enacted the strongest protections ever for the air we breathe, improved the quality of drinking water for millions of citizens, and led the world to confront new environmental challenges that require cooperation across borders and ideological divides. These environmental successes, coming in an era of unprecedented economic growth, proved that a strong economy and a healthy environment can go hand in hand.

Preparing for New Threats

The threat from the Soviet Union had driven U.S. national security and military strategy for nearly 50 years when the Communist government collapsed in 1991, leaving America as the world’s sole superpower. Old threats were now diminished, but did not disappear. Thousands of Soviet nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons still existed, and new, more diffuse dangers emerged: the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the rise of global terrorism.
 
NATO remained an indispensable alliance, and under President Clinton’s leadership it expanded with the admission of three former Soviet satellites—Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. But a wider range of allies were needed to ensure America’s security in the 21st century. President Clinton thus made it a priority to both build new partnerships with old adversaries and strengthen relations with longtime allies. At home, he dramatically increased funding for counter-terrorism, reversed a decade of decline in defense spending, and equipped the U.S. military with the advanced technology it would need to respond rapidly and decisively to coming threats.

Confronting Conflicts, Making Peace

In 1992, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was over, but deadly conflicts still raged in many parts of the world. Some, like the war in the Balkans and the Israeli–Palestinian dispute, threatened the stability of regions vital to America and its allies. Many involved ethnic and religious disputes that, if exploited by ruthless leaders, could throw large parts of the planet into turmoil. All tested whether America, the world’s only remaining superpower, would use its power for the common good.
 
President Clinton believed strongly that the United States should mobilize its strength in the cause of peace. He used diplomacy where possible, military force where necessary, to resolve conflicts. He traveled to every part of the world urging aggrieved peoples to choose reconciliation over revenge. Often, these efforts achieved breakthroughs that ended wars and saved lives. In some cases, bitter quarrels still defied resolution. Yet in every case, President Clinton’s willingness to go the extra mile for peace ensured that American power would be respected, not resented, in the new global age.

Building a Global Community

By the fall of 1992, celebration of the Cold War’s end gave way to grave uncertainty about what was coming next for America in the world. America was lagging competitively. U.S. alliances and institutions that had served America so well during the Cold War appeared outdated. There were fears that Russia was headed toward a Communist backlash; that the nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan would go to war; that the newly liberated countries of eastern Europe would become a gray zone of insecurity.

At home, political leaders called for America to pull away from the world and withdraw troops from western Europe and Korea. The Clinton Administration, however, believed that an increasingly globalized world required American leadership. President Clinton sought to redefine Cold War-era alliances and reorient them to new challenges; build new relationships with old adversaries; and recognize the importance of new emerging economies.

Eight years later, America’s alliances stood strong, and the United States entered the 21st century as the world’s leading force for peace and prosperity.

Expanding Our Shared Prosperity

Globalization was the defining reality of the Clinton Presidency. In the span of several years, new technologies transformed the ways that people worked, learned, and lived. A revolution in travel, commerce, and communications meant that by the late 1990s more people and goods moved from continent to continent in a single hour than in the entire 19th century.

Globalization rewarded countries whose businesses, workers, and capital could move quickly to support promising ventures. The Clinton Administration seized this opportunity, opening new markets for U.S. products and helping to create millions of jobs for Americans. As the new century approached, however, the gap between rich and poor nations became a matter of growing concern. President Clinton’s view was that globalization could benefit the poorest countries—but only if the United States led a worldwide effort to “put a human face on the global economy.” To turn this vision into reality, the administration took historic steps toward reducing poverty, debt, and disease in the developing world, giving poorer nations a better chance to prosper.

The Work of the First Lady

Hillary Clinton was one of our country’s most active First Ladies, fulfilling the traditional duties of the office, while assuming an unprecedented role in policy making at home and diplomacy abroad. Mrs. Clinton was the first professional woman to serve as First Lady, the first to have an office in the West Wing, and the first to launch her own campaign for an elective post, which she won, joining the U.S. Senate in 2001.
Hillary Clinton was a leading voice for children and working families. After his election, President Clinton asked his wife to continue championing these issues. As First Lady, Mrs. Clinton helped shape policies to improve health care, education, child care, and foster care. With the President, she hosted two conferences on child care which played a key role in developing the President’s Child Care Initiative. She worked to reform our nation’s foster care system and to promote adoption, resulting in the passage of the Adoption and Safe Family Act of 1997. She also traveled extensively, becoming one of the world’s most powerful voices for women’s rights, human rights, and democracy. A strong supporter of arts and culture, the First Lady fought to save historic monuments, sites, and artifacts, and made the Clinton White House a showcase for American creativity.
 

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Our renowned on-site restaurant, Forty Two, offers a variety of dining selections for Center visitors and locals alike. Stop by 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday to enjoy a delicious and affordable lunch featuring seasonal and locally grown ingredients. It’s farm-to-table in a modern museum setting. Admission fees are NOT required to dine at Forty Two; however, regular admission fees apply to tour the museum. Visit Website

The Clinton Museum Store offers a diverse selection of unique souvenirs and gifts, President Clinton’s favorite books, contemporary American arts and crafts, and a large array of specialty items from around the world. The Museum Store is conveniently located one block from the Clinton Presidential Center, and a shuttle provides free round-trip transportation from the Center to the Museum Store. Visit Website

The Clinton Climate Initiative’s Home Energy Affordability Loan (HEAL) is the first of a new breed of employer-sponsored “energy benefits” which bring energy efficiency and sustainable practices to the workplace. Employee Energy Benefits are turnkey programs that are delivered in much the same way as voluntary benefit offerings, such as a 401k or Flexible Spending Account. As the pioneer program in this movement, HEAL is primarily designed to lower the employee-participant’s home energy expenses, but future Energy Benefit offerings could target other areas of impact such as commuting/transportation or water conservation. Read More