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Talking It Over
January 17, 2001
As I continue to sort through my belongings, packing the seemingly endless supply of boxes, I can see workers putting the finishing touches on the reviewing stand from which the Bushes and their guests will watch the Inaugural parade on Saturday.
What an incredible experience -- one that my family and I will never forget. After my husband's swearing-in ceremonies in January 1993, we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. After watching the parade from the reviewing stands, we proceeded to the North Portico. When we stepped into the Grand Foyer, we were greeted by the many people who work so hard to make the White House not just the center of the executive branch of our government, but also a warm and inviting place for the First Family to live.
My priority, upon moving in, was to create a home for my family -- especially my daughter, who was only 12 at the time, and had just left so many good friends behind in Little Rock. With the help of the curator's staff, we planned a special Inauguration-night party for Chelsea. While Bill and I attended 13 Inaugural balls, Chelsea and a group of friends shared pizza and soda. The highlight of their evening was "The History Mystery Tour," a scavenger hunt that had them roaming all over the house, searching for items of historical significance like the Gettysburg Address, and on the lookout for some of the little-known spots like the hidden staircase between the second and third floors.
This is just one example of the lengths to which the White House staff has gone over the last eight years to make us feel at home. Under Chief Usher Gary Walters, who describes his job as "the manager of a big hotel with only one tenant," the 91 employees have become an extension of our family. When we leave on Saturday morning, saying goodbye to them will be the hardest part of the day.
As difficult as the leave-taking will be, the memories of the last eight years will be with me forever: the first visit of Nelson Mandela; the moment Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat extended their hands to one another in a gesture of peace and goodwill; honoring American heroes like Rosa Parks; welcoming entertainers like Elton John and Barbra Streisand; the November day in 1998 when we gathered in the East Room to celebrate the adoption of 30 children who had never before known what it meant to have permanent and loving families; the day Chelsea left for college; peaceful weekends at Camp David; several surprise birthday parties; eight magical Christmases; marking the moment Dec. 31, 1999 turned to Jan. 1, 2000; watching fireworks from the Truman Balcony and movies in the family theater; late night swims; the first meeting of Buddy and Socks; and even a few incognito walks outside the grounds.
For every one of these incredible memories, I have members of the White House staff to thank -- not just the residence staff, but the Social Office, the kitchen staff, the florists, the military aides and musicians, the flight crews and employees of the White House Mess, communications experts, the White House operators, the Secret Service, domestic and international advisers, the correspondence offices, career employees who take care of a mind-boggling array of administrative details, historians and preservation experts, thousands of volunteers without whom this living museum could not function, and of course, the dedicated members of my own staff.
Even as we wind down to the last few days, this hearty group is going full tilt. On my schedule today, I will attend a meeting with the Holocaust Asset Commission; present awards to five groups for their efforts to extend microcredit to would-be entrepreneurs; and meet with the staff of our Vital Voices initiative, which works to bring women around the world into the mainstream of their nation's governments and economies.
Asked why, at this stage, we are still so engaged, I have to say that it's because of you. You asked us to do a job, and not one of us wants to leave while any part of that job remains undone.
So I thank you, too -- not just for the last eight years, but for the opportunity to continue the work we began together. Although I must say goodbye to the dear friends I've made here, I won't be far away. And I promise that every day I'm a United States senator, I'll continue the work begun in this house.
I wish the Bushes all the best. I know they will be well taken care of here. And once again, to my loyal readers around the world, I say, "Thank you."
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2001 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
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