- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

First man?

If one thing stands out more than any other about President Clinton’s foreign policy record during his eight years in the White House, it’s the millions of admirers he has around the world, whether heads of state or the ordinary Joe on the Champs-Elysees.

That said, let’s assume history is made in November 2008, or so Inside the Beltway had the opportunity to discuss with Mr. Clinton in New York on Friday, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes the first female president of the United States.

Who better to call upon as a goodwill ambassador, perhaps with Cabinet rank, to circumnavigate the globe and undertake some much-needed fence mending?

“I would do whatever she wants me to do,” Mr. Clinton replied. “But remember we have a long way to go.”

He was referring to the inevitable hurdles a candidate such as Mrs. Clinton has to clear during the early stages of presidential campaigning, followed by the always contentious make-or-break primary season, and only then emerging as a party nominee in the November election.

“I’m delighted she’s running; I’m excited about it,” said the former president, who’s fit (he’s as slim as he’s ever been) to begin his third round of presidential campaigning, albeit this time trading places with his wife.

As far as returning full-time to Washington and his old bedroom in the White House?

“I would miss New York,” Mr. Clinton acknowledged, but he added, “no matter what happens” he will continue “enjoying my work on behalf of my foundation.”

The William J. Clinton Foundation, to which he refers, seeks to meet challenges of global interdependence in areas of health security; economic empowerment; leadership development and citizen service; and racial, ethnic and religious reconciliation.

McGill as mentor

Colonial-era tricorn hats off — unless you’re sporting a mob cap or bonnet — on this Presidents Day to James Renwick Manship Sr., a Virginia gentleman who spends his days portraying and teaching about George Washington, whether appearing in parades or visiting classrooms.

And how did he become this enthusiastic, modern-day Washington?

We’ve obtained a response Mr. Manship sent recently to a Virginia teacher named Mrs. Harris: “Yes, ‘GW’ will be most pleased to join with your 6th grade students to let the spirit of George Washington live in the minds and hearts of all Americans,” he wrote.

At which point he got to thinking about his own childhood and wrote in the same letter, “I remember my sixth grade teacher, Miss Shankle, a lady in her sixties, in the sixties, at Garden Hills Elementary in Atlanta, Georgia.

“I remember taking the bus to the Main Library downtown because there was a larger selection of books, (yeah, I guess I was a book worm, but I also played football, baseball, was a Boy Scout, choir boy and altar boy, plus I shined shoes for a GW quarter-a-pair at a barber shop to pay my way to Boy Scout camp) …

“One time downtown I went by to visit my mentor, Ralph McGill, who was publisher of The Atlanta Constitution, a man who in 1959 was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his editorials against segregation in the South, and in that my sixth grade year of 1964, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom …

“Mr. McGill is the man I befriended at church who first thing told me to read the Constitution, not his newspaper, but the same ‘this Constitution for the United States of America’ that your students will be receiving from the president of the Constitutional Convention.

“Mr. McGill took me to my first Chinese restaurant and taught me how to use chopsticks. The next year, Mr. McGill let me use his substantial library on the War Between the States for my term paper for my 7th grade American History class,” he continued. “I was so motivated by Mr. McGill that I wound up writing a 168-page term paper, at age 12 no less.

“As a reward he gave me a copy of the book ‘The Atlanta Century,’ a wonderful history of ‘The War’ done in the style of a weekly newspaper front page, autographed by the author, a reporter on his paper, and Mr. McGill, the paper’s publisher. That book made history come alive for me, as did my 7th grade school term paper. So today, four decades later I work as a journalist and an historian.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin @washingtontimes.com.

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