Mentored President Bill Clinton?
Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd President of the United
My high school band director, Virgil Spurlin, had a
huge impact on my life. Not because he was a particularly
great band director. He was quite good, but he was a
world-class human being. He took a personal interest
in kids, and seemed to instinctively know when they
were having trouble at home or having trouble in school,
and always to know what to say to them and more importantly
maybe what questions to ask to find out what was really
going on in their lives. He also was always looking
for things that young people could do besides play music.
We put on the state band festival every year, for example,
and he let lots of us help. And he taught us basic organizational
skills and how to allocate resources and move things
around. But always he was trying to find things that
people were good at. He thought that everybody was good
at something and if he just looked hard enough he could
find it, he could convince them of it, and he could
raise their aspirations and their hopes.
He was unbelievable. All my life I thought of him. I
stayed in touch with him on and off until he passed
away. I really felt that my early years with him convinced
me that I could organize and run things. That I could
do whatever I wanted to do and that I could actually
marshal other people in a common effort, and of course
if you're in politics that's very important.
I did have a lot of doubt when I was a young person.
And I was always holding myself to a very high standard
and failing, thinking I was never perfect, never as
good as I wanted to be as a person, as a student, as
anything, a musician. And I actually think some of that
is quite healthy. I think all of us could do with a
dose of self-doubt, always questioning. But if it's
too strong in your life, it can paralyze you.
I think the example of my mother helped me a lot there,
because she had all these incredible difficulties from
the time she was a little girl, through her marriage,
her marriage to my stepfather was quite difficult, and
she had difficulties in her profession. She always got
up early in the morning, you know, went to the bathroom,
made herself up and left the house with a smile on her
face. And she told me repeatedly that every day was
a gift, and that obstacles were as much a part of life
as opportunities, and you just had to go on. And I had
this sort of dogged endurance throughout my life. Sometimes
your parents or other mentors can have a bigger example
just by the way they are with you and with other people,
by what you see about the way they live as much as whether
they are with you all the time or what words come out
of their mouth.