Bill Clinton's Haunting Memory Of His Stepfather Is Quite The Eye-Opener

Although the administration of the 42nd U.S. President Bill Clinton was plagued by scandal, his two terms in office, from 1993 to 2001, were also marked by many successes, as the official White House website explains. Many U.S Presidents come from humble beginnings, but a look back at Clinton's tumultuous childhood makes his later success in the White House, and his work with The Clinton Foundation — a public health and civic engagement nonprofit that the Clintons launched after leaving office — all that much more notable.

Bill Clinton's troubled upbringing began early. His father died in a car wreck just a few months before Bill was born. In the wake of that tragedy, Bill's mother, Virginia Dell Blythe, later married Roger Clinton, who would adopt Bill as his own. The marriage of Virginia and Roger Clinton was rocky, caused in no small part by Roger Clinton's addiction to alcohol. For these reasons and more, young Bill Clinton was caught in the middle in a home life that was fraught with anger and tension.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Clinton was partially raised by his grandmother

As a result of Roger Clinton's alcoholism, Virginia and Roger Clinton would divorce and remarry. Due to this unstable home life,  young Bill Clinton was raised to a large degree by his own maternal grandmother, as Britannica notes. Because of this, the relationship between Bill Clinton's mother and his own grandmother was strained, as Bill's wife of more than four decades, Hillary Rodham Clinton, revealed to Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Lucinda Franks, via the Independent

In that same interview with Franks, Hillary Clinton also alleged to Frank that her husband lived with abuse from his own mother. On the topic of her husband's purported abuse, Hillary Clinton said (via Independent), "When a mother does what she does, it affects you forever." Layered on top of alleged abuse from his mother the former president spoke publicly of another troubling incident from his own past regarding his stepfather.

His stepfather was abusive

In November 1995, Bill Clinton spoke to Good Housekeeping Magazine about an especially traumatic event that took place between his mother and stepfather when Bill was just five years old. According to Clinton (via AP)  he witnessed his stepfather fire a gun at his mother during an especially heated argument. Although no one was hurt, the bullet could have ricocheted, hitting anyone who was in the room. Nonetheless, Clinton remained pragmatic about his stepfather, explaining Roger Clinton was troubled and never meant to hurt anyone. 

Clinton did concede, though, that the lack of a positive male role model in his upbringing did affect his view of both manhood and marriage. And as he grew older, he adopted the role of a peacekeeper. In the Good Housekeeping interview Clinton also said (via AP), "I was deprived of a male role model. I grew up with this idealized version of my own father who died before I was born. I loved my stepfather very much, but he was rarely ... not never, but rarely ... engaged in my life."

Despite personal trauma, Clinton achieved many things while he was President

Personal trauma aside, Bill Clinton remained ambitious and was inspired to seek office while he was in high school after meeting President John F. Kennedy at the White House. Prior to his own time in the Oval Office, Clinton graduated from Yale University Law School and served in Arkansas state government, both as attorney general and as governor. At the time that he was elected in 1978 to lead Arkansas, Clinton was the youngest U.S. governor in 40 years, as Britannica notes.

After winning the White House for the first time in 1992, Clinton's two terms in office were notable for many reasons. He was the first Democrat to win reelection since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s and '40s. His administration also saw low unemployment, low inflation, and high home ownership, as the White House website explains. Among other positive impacts Clinton's leadership had on the country, crime rates were down during his time in office. The story of Bill Clinton goes to show that despite a tough childhood, individuals can overcome personal challenges and succeed at the highest level of their chosen profession.