People have said that I knew Bill would be President one day and went around telling anyone who would listen. I don't remember thinking that until years later, but I had one strange encounter at a small restaurant in Berkeley. I was supposed to meet Bill, but I was held up at work and arrived late. There was no sign of him, and I asked the waiter if he had seen a man of his description. A customer sitting nearby spoke up, saying, "He was here for a long time reading, and I started talking to him about books. I don't know his name, but he's going to be President someday." "Yeah, right," I said, "but do you know where he went?"
At the end of the summer, we returned to New Haven and rented the ground floor of 21 Edgewood Avenue for seventy-five dollars a month. That bought us a living room with a fireplace, one small bedroom, a third room that served as both study and dining area, a tiny bathroom and a primitive kitchen. The floors were so uneven that plates would slide off the dining table if we didn't keep little wooden blocks under the table legs to level them. The wind howled through cracks in the walls that we stuffed with newspapers. But despite it all, I loved our first house. We shopped for furniture at the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores and were quite proud of our student decor.
Our apartment was a block away from the Elm Street Diner, which we frequented because it was open all night. The local Y down the street had a yoga class that I joined, and Bill agreed to take with me -- as long as I didn't tell anybody else. He also came along to the Cathedral of Sweat, Yale's gothic sports center, to run mindlessly around the mezzanine track. Once he started running, he kept going. I didn't.
We ate often at Basel's, a favorite Greek restaurant, and loved going to the movies at the Lincoln, a small theater set back on a residential street. One evening after a blizzard finally stopped, we decided to go to the movies. The roads were not yet cleared, so we walked there and back through the foot-high snowdrifts, feeling very much alive and in love.
We both had to work to pay our way through law school, on top of the student loans we had taken out. But we still found time for politics. Bill decided to open a McGovern for President headquarters in New Haven, using his own money to rent a storefront. Most of the volunteers were Yale students and faculty because the boss of the local Democratic Party, Arthur Barbieri, was not supporting McGovern. Bill arranged for us to meet Mr. Barbieri at an Italian restaurant. At a long lunch, Bill claimed he had eight hundred volunteers ready to hit the streets to out-organize the regular party apparatus. Barbieri eventually decided to endorse McGovern. He invited us to attend the party meeting at a local Italian club, Melebus Club, where he would announce his endorsement.
The next week, we drove to a nondescript building and entered a door leading to a set of stairs that went down to a series of underground rooms. When Barbieri stood up to speak in the big dining room, he commanded the attention of the local county committee members -- mostly men -- who were there. He started by talking about the war in Vietnam and naming the boys from the New Haven area who were serving in the military and those who had died. Then he said, "This war isn't worth losing one more boy for. That's why we should support George McGovern, who wants to bring our boys home." This was not an immediately popular position, but as the night wore on, he pressed his case until he got a unanimous vote of support. And he delivered on his commitment, first at the state convention and then in the election when New Haven was one of the few places in America that voted for McGovern over Nixon.
After Christmas, Bill drove up from Hot Springs to Park Ridge to spend a few days with my family. Both my parents had met him the previous summer, but I was nervous because my dad was so uninhibited in his criticism of my boyfriends. I wondered what he would say to a Southern Democrat with Elvis sideburns. My mother had told me that in my father's eyes, no man would be good enough for me. She appreciated Bill's good manners and willingness to help with the dishes. But Bill really won her over when he found her reading a philosophy book from one of her college courses and spent the next hour or so discussing it with her. It was slow going at first with my father, but he warmed up over games of cards, and in front of the television watching football bowl games. My brothers basked in Bill's attention. My friends liked him too. After I introduced him to Betsy Johnson, her mother, Roslyn, cornered me on the way out of their house and said, "I don't care what you do, but don't let this one go. He's the only one I've ever seen make you laugh!"
Copyright © 2003 by Hillary Rodham Clinton. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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