President Bill Clinton

Who Mentored President Bill Clinton?

Interview  Watch the video of President Bill Clinton.

Watch a public service announcement featuring Bill Clinton in support of National Mentoring Month.

William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States.

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.