5 Minutes with President Clinton
February 26, 2014 – I’ve had the opportunity to speak with some of the greatest athletes in history, including several Yankees legends. When I wrote Yankee Stadium: The Official Retrospective and The Final Season: The Official Retrospective, I was fortunate enough to briefly ask five United States Presidents about the Stadium. But with deference to all of those experiences, I landed the biggest interview of my life last week.
On February 20, I sat down with Bill Clinton for more than 20 minutes for a very special “5 Minutes with…” feature that will be published in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine.
The interview took place in a conference room in Clinton’s midtown Manhattan office, and from start to finish, the former President answered my questions brilliantly.
I began the conversation with a few questions about baseball including one in which I asked Clinton to discuss Derek Jeter’s career.
“I recently read an article in which the author listed who he thought were the 10 greatest Yankees,” Clinton began. “I think that Derek will be on any list of the 10 greatest players in the history of the Yankees storied franchise. Derek is the most important example since Cal Ripken Jr. of someone who just wanted to play for one team, who wanted to give it his all and who has always been there for the team. Derek’s attitude has always been team first and me second. He’s done it without ever being dower or sanctimonious about it. I don’t think anyone has ever had more fun playing baseball than Derek Jeter. He has managed to make it a joyous endeavor and to have a good time doing it. People have known that he is all about the team and winning, and as a result, he has always received support from not only the players but also the public.”
After Clinton waxed poetic about the Yankees captain, I asked him who he would choose if he could share a meal with any athlete throughout history.
“That’s a hard question,” Clinton said. “I would have liked to sit down and talk to Jesse Owens about the Berlin Olympics and what it was like to be an African-American competing in front of Adolf Hitler, who had all of those crazy racist theories. What did he see in the eyes of all the German people who watched him compete? How did the way he conducted himself affect the way people felt about him?”
After a brief pause, Clinton spoke about the Yankees he would have liked to meet.
“I would also like to have had a Yankee dinner with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio,” Clinton said. “I would have liked to talk with them about the evolution of baseball through time and the connection between natural ability and training, the difference between what Ruth would have to do now to perform at the level he did when he was playing and what he did then. That would have been a fascinating conversation.”
After we spoke about sports, I asked Clinton several questions about his life and his presidency, including one about the satisfaction he feels today about the striving economy in America during his two terms.
“I have enormous satisfaction because we not only created 22 million jobs but we didn’t have the great income inequality that we have today in America,” Clinton said. “Wages rose at every level. I just did a little research, and one of the economic reports from when I was in the White House pointed out that we had 100 times more people moving from poverty to the middle class in my eight years than in the previous 12 years. I’m really proud of that because we had serious policies in place to help people train for the jobs of tomorrow, to finance new businesses and to help people succeed at home and at work. In my opinion, if everyone who wanted a job had one, the country would only have about ten percent of the problems we have today. The key to everything is that people are able to make their own way, educate their own children, support their own families and buy their own homes.”
To read my complete interview with the 42nd president of the United States, please pick up the April Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III