The guests were gathered, the candidates were brimming with nervous tension and the sponsors had high hopes, especially since each had placed between $250 and $4,000 on the table to be part of this fundraising dinner. Then, the news spread that the hero of the hour had canceled. Yet as soon as this person’s replacement was announced, disappointment became enthusiasm in the blink of an eye. Hillary Clinton, who had originally been scheduled to be the main speaker in favor of the Democrat gubernatorial candidate in the state of Maryland, wanted to spend a little more time with her first grandchild and had no hesitation in asking her husband Bill to take her place. And so, overflowing with charm and wit, he took to the podium amid thunderous applause. He looked slender, trim and clearly much healthier than he did during his term in office, his thick, gray hair giving him the appearance of an elder statesman.
Bill Clinton is a phenomenon. Many former U.S. presidents disappear into obscurity when their terms in office come to an end, placing strict limits on how often they appear in public. Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, spends more of his retirement sitting behind an easel than he does giving speeches. In the past, Lyndon B. Johnson and Dwight D. Eisenhower have had peaceful retirements on their own farms. In Ronald Reagan’s case, his withdrawal from the public eye was due to medical reasons. Meanwhile, since giving his first speech at a party conference at the age of 33, Bill Clinton has been involved in the highest level of American politics for 35 years. It is a cliché to state that he melts hearts with his appearances — appearances which, incidentally, have made him a very rich man. In a society which politically is deeply divided, he very much embodies the ideals the founding fathers had of “president above party.” The 42nd president does not hide his friendships with those who were once his political opponents — his predecessor, George H. W. Bush and his successor, George W. Bush — and is even well-liked by a large proportion of the Republican electorate.
In my capacity as a medical doctor, that he is still around and going strong impresses me tremendously. The politician, once the poster boy for unhealthy dietary habits, has become a role model for a healthy lifestyle. When Clinton was elected the 42nd president of the United States in 1992, it quickly became common knowledge that hamburgers and French fries were his favorite dish. In 1999, his last year in office, the White House doctor declared that the chief executive had gained 18 pounds in two years. What followed was inevitable: In 2004, Clinton underwent a quadruple bypass, and in 2010 he had coronary stents implanted.
According to a political website, “Clinton’s mealtimes often consist of roasted cauliflower with cherry tomatoes, diced beets, hummus, snow pea salad, roasted nuts, melon and strawberries.”* He wishes to share his own experiences of diverting to a much healthier lifestyle with his younger compatriots. As obesity is fast becoming endemic in children, the Clinton Foundation, established by the former president, is working with the American Heart Association on a program which will provide healthier lunches and more exercise for pupils in 12,000 schools.
“I wanted to live to be a grandfather,” Clinton told the seniors’ association AARP. Another motivation which has allowed the ex-president to release a great deal of energy in recent years, alongside the anticipation of becoming a grandparent, is clearly apparent in Clinton’s irrepressible will to overcome his own risk factors. The man to whom historian Douglas Brinkley attributes a combination of “ambition, will, narcissism and talent,” has a clear goal. Clinton is obviously endeavoring to become a first in history; the first president to return to the White House for four or, perhaps, eight more years and for whom a new term must be coined: that of “first husband” or “first spouse.” Re-entering the presidential residence alongside the 45th president — the first ever female president — would be an epic triumph and exoneration for the man who was once dogged by scandal.
*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.
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