Local man attends opening of Clinton library

November 19, 2004|by TARA REILLY

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. - A soaking rain drenched Thursday's opening of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., but Cascade resident Karl Weissenbach said the weather was barely noticeable.

"It really didn't phase you when you saw four presidents standing on the stage," Weissenbach said by phone from the Doubletree Hotel in Little Rock on Thursday night. "It was really a big thrill to me."

Weissenbach said it was nice to see former Democratic Presidents Clinton and Jimmy Carter and former President George H. W. Bush and son, President George W. Bush - both Republicans - together to celebrate the opening of Clinton's library.


"It was a great moment for our country," Weissenbach, 50, said. "It showed we're all Americans and we're all here to work together."

Weissenbach is the director of the Nixon Presidential Materials in College Park, Md., which is part of the of National Archives' Office of Presidential Libraries. He has been in Little Rock since Tuesday with other directors of presidential libraries.

The directors were there to participate in talks about the importance of presidential libraries and to celebrate the new Clinton library.

Weissenbach, who toured the library on the bank of the Arkansas River, said it has a unique design and is filled with interesting memorabilia, such as Clinton's saxophones and gifts from people worldwide, and other items that represent the eight-year Clinton presidency and his accomplishments.

The Associated Press reported that the $165 million, 27-acre complex contains more than 80 million items, including 20 million e-mail messages.

"It's stunning," he said. "Whether you are a fan of Bill Clinton or not, you should see it."

"When I left the library, I came away not only having a better understanding of President Clinton the president, but President Clinton the man," Weissenbach said.

Weissenbach said he also was impressed with the full-scale replica of the Oval Office in the library.

"I find that fascinating," he said. "It gives you the sense of the power of the presidency."

Weissenbach said Little Rock was filled this week with national politicians and celebrities on hand for the opening of the Clinton library. He said he saw Sen. John Kerry, Bono from U2, Brad Pitt and Barbra Streisand, to name a few.

"I had a very nice chat (Wednesday night) with Janet Reno," he said. "It was small talk about her tenure in the White House. It was just a chance encounter."

He said an area was roped off at a nearby hotel where members of the public could wait and hope to get a glance at celebrities.

The day he arrived in Little Rock, he said he got a little surprise.

"I was walking down the street, and all of a sudden all these ladies started running toward me," Weissenbach said. "I couldn't figure out why they were looking at me. I came to find out it that it was Brad Pitt they were looking at behind me. That was kind of a letdown."

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