In 1978, Bill Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas in a landslide. He and his wife, Hillary Rodham, whom he married in 1975, were just 32. Rodham, who moved south for Clinton's political career, had already built a successful career in the state as a young lawyer and law professor.
The young Hillary had decided to keep her last name because she saw it as part of her own identity. (Bill's mother, Virginia, had cried at the news.) Rodham's last name ultimately became an issue in Bill's 1978 campaign, though. His opponent, Frank White, would introduce his wife as "Mrs. Frank White" — a not-so-subtle attack on what Republicans in Arkansas saw as the Clintons' brazen liberalism in the Southern state.
In 1979, a month into her tenure as Arkansas first lady, Rodham sat down for an interview with the Arkansas public affairs program In Focus. The interview, available on BuzzFeed News for the first time in decades, is among the earliest, and most open, glimpses of Clinton's efforts to balance public and private life, a theme that has followed her long career. Archived in the special collections at the University of Arkansas, the nearly half-hour-long interview offers an insight into the future Hillary Clinton and her early attempts to navigate the tough waters as the wife of a political figure — while keeping her own identity and privacy.
The interview covers how the Clintons compromised on her dual roles in her career and as first lady and how they traded the exposure of being a public couple but guarded their private life. She talked about her and Bill's youth being an asset, and discussed wanting to have children (this interview took place before Chelsea was born).
The deeply personal interview is perhaps the oldest and longest video of the young Hillary Clinton.
Here are the highlights:
Hillary said she dealt with guarding her and Bill's privacy while accepting that having your privacy curtailed is a part of public life.
She talked about the "tremendous strain" people married to politicians are under.
"One gets the impression," the host noted, "that you’re really not all that interested in state dinners and teas and garden parties..."
Hillary said being in politics put a strain on her marriage with Bill. Did she ever have second thoughts? "No, no, never, never."
Had the Clintons' youth been a problem for them? "It hasn’t proven to be. At least thus far; in many ways, it’s been a blessing..."
Hillary said she thought it was "understandable" that people asked why she didn't take her husband's last name. The reason, she said, was she "really did not want to mix my professional activities with his political activities."
"I’m sure that it probably did, and I regret that very much," Hillary said when asked if her last name lost Bill votes. "I regret any reason for someone voting against Bill other than on the basis of an honest disagreement with the issues."
Hillary said reflections of her as "too liberal" because she didn't take Bill's last name were "no way related to reality."
Hillary said she wasn't concerned if she didn't fit the typical image for the wife of the governor. She said she fell in love with the state and couldn't "think of a better place to be living right now."
Hillary said she found the "slower pace" of Arkansas "a welcome relief" from the 18- to 20-hour days she did working as aide on the House impeachment staff in the early 1970s.
"Every so often, people who come from the outside of Arkansas say that we’re so unprogressive here," the host noted.
Here's the full interview:
Molly Ward contributed reporting.
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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Ilan Ben-Meir is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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