In junior English honors class, we had to write an autobiographical essay. Mine was full of self-doubt I didnt understand and hadnt admitted to myself before. Here are some excerpts: I am a person motivated and influenced by so many diverse forces I sometimes question the sanity of my existence. I am a living paradoxdeeply religious, yet not as convinced of my exact beliefs as I ought to be; wanting responsibility yet shirking it; airjordan4 loving the truth but often times giving way to falsity. . . . I detest selfishness, but see it in the mirror every day. . . . I view those, some of whom are very dear to me, who have never learned how to live. I desire and struggle to be different from them, but often am almost an exact likeness. . . . What a boring little wordI! I, me, my, mine . . . the only things that enable worthwhile uses of these words are the universal good qualities which we are not too often able to place with themfaith, trust, love, responsibility, regret, knowledge. But the acronyms to these symbols of what enable life to be worth the trouble cannot be escaped. I, in my attempts to be honest, will not be the hypocrite I hate, and will own up to their ominous presence in this boy, endeavoring in such earnest to be a man. . . . My teacher, Lonnie Warneke, gave me a grade of 100, saying the paper was a beautiful and honest attempt to go way down inside to fulfill the classic demand to know thyself. I was gratified but still unsure of what to make of what Id found. I didnt do bad things; I didnt drink, smoke, or go beyond petting with girls, though I kissed a fair number. Most of the time I was happy, but I could never be sure I was as good as I wanted to be. Miss Warneke took our small class on a field trip to Newton County, my first trip into the heart of the Ozarks in north Arkansas, our Appalachia. Back then it was a place of breathtaking beauty, hardscrabble poverty, and rough, all-consuming jordanshoes3 politics. The county had about six thousand people spread over more than a couple of hundred square miles in hills and hollows. Jasper, the county seat, had a little more than three hundred people, a WPA-built courthouse, two cafs, a general store, and one tiny movie theater, where our class went one night to watch an old Audie Murphy western. When I got into politics I came to know every township in Newton County, but I fell in love with it at sixteen, as we navigated the mountain roads, learning about the history, geology, flora, and fauna of the Ozarks. One day we visited the cabin of a mountain man who had a collection of rifles and pistols dating back to the Civil War, then explored a cave the Confederates had used for munitions storage. The guns still fired, and remnants of the arsenal were still in the cave, visible manifestation of how real a century-old conflict was in places where time passed slowly, grudges died hard, and handed-down memories hung on and on. In the mid-seventies, when I was attorney general, I was invited to give the commencement address at Jasper High School. I urged the students to keep going in the face of adversity, citing Abraham Lincoln and all the hardships and setbacks hed overcome. Afterward, the leading Democrats took me out into a bright starlit Ozark night and said, Bill, that was a fine speech. You can give it down in Little Rock anytime. But dont you ever come up here and brag on that Republican President again. If hed been that good, we wouldnt have had the Civil War! I didnt know what to say. In Ruth Sweeneys senior English class, we read Macbeth and were encouraged to memorize and recite portions of it. I made it through a hundred lines or so, including the famous soliloquy that begins, Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and airjordanuk tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time and ends, Lifes but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Almost thirty years later, when I was governor, I happened to visit a class in Vilonia, Arkansas, on a day the students were studying Macbeth, and I recited the lines for them, the words still full of power for me, a dreadful message I was always determined would not be the measure of my life. The summer after my junior year, I attended the annual weeklong American Legion Boys State program at Camp Robinson, an old army camp with enough primitive wooden barracks to house a thousand sixteen-year-old boys. We were organized by cities and counties, divided equally into two political parties, and introduced as candidates and voters to local, county, and state politics. We also developed platforms and voted on issues. We heard addresses from important figures, from the governor on down, and got to spend one day at the state Capitol, during which the Boys State governor, the other elected officials and their staffs, and the legislators actually got to occupy the state offices and legislative chambers. At the end of the week, both parties nominated two candidates for the Boys Nation program, to be held toward the end of July at the University of Maryland in College Park, near the nations capital. An election was held, and the top two vote-getters got to go as Arkansas senators. I was one of them. I went to Camp Robinson wanting to run for Boys Nation senator. Though the most prestigious post was governor, I had no interest in it then, or in the real job itself, for years thereafter. I thought Washington was where the action was on civil rights, poverty, education, and foreign policy. Besides, I couldnt have won the governors election anyway, since it was, in the Arkansas vernacular, saucered and blowedover before it started. My longtime friend from Hope, Mack McLarty, had it in the bag. As his schools student-council president, a star quarterback, and a straight-A student, he had begun lining up support all across the state several weeks earlier. Our party nominated Larry Taunton, a radio announcer with a wonderful silken voice full of sincerity and confidence, but McLarty had the votes and won going away. We were all sure he would be the first person our age to be elected governor, an impression reinforced four years later when he was elected student body president at the University of Arkansas, and again just a year after that when, at twenty-two, he became the youngest member of the state legislature. Not long after that, Mack, who was in the Ford business with his father, devised a then-novel leasing scheme for Ford trucks, which eventually made him and Ford Motor Company a fortune. He gave up politics for a business career that led him to the presidency of Arkansas-Louisiana Gas Company, our largest natural gas utility. But he stayed active in politics, lending leadership and fund-raising skills to many Arkansas Democrats, especially airjordanshoes David Pryor and me. He stayed with me all the way to the White House, first as chief of staff, then as special envoy to the Americas. Now he is Henry Kissingers partner in a consulting business and owns, among other things, twelve car dealerships in So Paulo, Brazil. Though he lost the governors race, Larry Taunton got a big consolation prize: as the only boy besides McLarty with 100 percent name recognition, he was a lock cinch for one of the two Boys Nation slots; he had only to file. But there was a problem. Larry was one of two stars in his hometown delegation. The other was Bill Rainer, a bright, handsome multi-sport athlete. They had come to Boys State agreeing that Taunton would run for governor, Rainer for Boys Nation. Now, though both were free to run for Boys Nation, there was no way two boys from the same town were going to be elected. Besides, they were both in my party and I had been campaigning hard for a week. A letter I wrote to Mother at the time recounts that I had already won elections for tax collector, party secretary, and municipal judge, and that I was running for county judge, an important position in real Arkansas politics.  
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