Go to contents

[Opinion] A President’s Autobiography

Posted February. 27, 2005 22:58,   


Former American President Bill Clinton’s autobiography “My Life” is in the news for various reasons. This may be the first time that a former American President has paid a visit to Korea to promote his autobiography. The book distinguishes itself among a group of autobiographies written by ex-presidents in that Clinton received an astronomical amount of down payment, it boasts of as many as 1,000 or some pages in it, and that it became a best-seller immediately after it came out. His wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, also authored a best-selling autobiography. The two are uncommon cases among former presidential couples that have written their own autobiographies.

Born as a posthumous child, former U.S. President Clinton, in “My Life”, starts telling his story by showing how much he misses his father. He then honestly portrays his life as a son, university student, governor, president, and father of a family. The book includes a plain, thorough description of his younger days when he considered Martin Luther King Jr. and former president John F. Kennedy as his heroes. The book also describes his political success story from the day he threw himself into politics in a small village in Arkansas until the day he eventually became the President of the United States, and the emotional pain he went through in the face of the humiliating scandal with Monica Lewinsky that led to pressure on him to resign from his post.

It is a common sight for U.S. presidents to compose their own autobiographies. Most of them author one or two books on their own lives. Among them are masterpieces that allow us to understand the authors themselves and the ages they lived in, including a gem of an autobiography by Richard Nixon, who failed to finish his term, but who was a very intellectual leader, one written by former president Kennedy, who led a short, yet dramatic life, and autobiographies and biographies of Ronald Reagan, who now has become a hero of another American legend.

Some may call Clinton’s visit to Korea for promotion of his book just a part of his commercial strategy. Nevertheless, we cannot but look at it with envy. For whatever reason, a president writing a book seems like a far-fetched possibility in Korea, where it is hard for presidents to author autobiographies. Autobiographies can give renewed life to past history. When will we Koreans have a sound appreciation of our history, while reading our Presidents’ best-seller autobiographies?

Hyun In-taik, Guest Editorial Writer and professor in International Political Science at Korea University, ithyun@chol.com