Oprah: So even when your brother called you into the house because your stepfather had scissors to your mother's throat, you never hated him?
Clinton: No. I think that was his last outburst. Not long before, he'd found out he had cancer. I just took him out of the laundry room where they [my mother and stepfather] were and put him in the living room. Then I went back and made sure Mother was all right. By then I'd been dealing with my stepfather's alcoholism for years, and I didn't realize the extent to which my brother was humiliated that day. He was 8, and when he ran outside to call me, he wasn't even fully dressed. Thirty years passed before we ever talked through that. I'd never sat down and told him that he was the hero in the deal, not me. If I had understood it better and talked to him then, he might have had fewer problems in life. That incident is what snapped him. He was never again able to open his heart to his father. I just felt lousy. Away at college, that's the kind of stuff I worried about all the time.
Oprah: When you submitted your Rhodes scholar application, you wrote that you wanted to mold an intellect to endure the pressures of politics.
Clinton: Yes. I decided I wanted to be in politics when I was 16.
Oprah: It has often been said that after you shook hands with John F. Kennedy in 1963 [while attending Boys Nation in Washington, D.C.], you knew you wanted to be president.
Clinton: I loved meeting President Kennedy, and that's a nice story, but it's not true. At the time, I aspired to be a member of the Senate. Maybe I had it in the back of my mind that I'd someday run for president, but nobody from a state like mine had ever been elected.
Oprah: I love what you write, in an autobiographical essay you included, at age 16: "I am a person motivated and influenced by so many diverse forces I sometimes question the sanity of my existence. I am a living paradox—deeply religious, yet not as convinced of my exact beliefs as I ought to be.... I, in my attempts to be honest, will not be the hypocrite I hate... [while] endeavoring in such earnest to be a man...." When I was 16, I was just trying to get a date with Anthony Otey!
Clinton: Pretty dark essay.
Oprah: It's profound.
Clinton: I just try to tell the truth.
Oprah: Have you become the man you've endeavored to be?
Clinton: No. That's a lifetime journey. Every day mirrors the act of creation. Each morning you have to get up and create all over again. The building is never done. If I'm lucky enough to live to be 80, and you come back and ask me that question again, I'd still say no. But I feel better today than I ever have. In some ways, I'm having more fun than I've ever had. I'm still learning.
We Hear You!