LITTLE ROCK — The William J. Clinton Presidential Library, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, could have been built in Washington, D.C., former President Bill Clinton said Thursday.

LITTLE ROCK — The William J. Clinton Presidential Library, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, could have been built in Washington, D.C., former President Bill Clinton said Thursday.


Speaking at the 149th annual meeting of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Clinton said members of his graduating class at Georgetown University approached him and offered to contribute $30 million for the library if he would build it in Washington.


Clinton said he told his former classmates, "I can’t do that. I have to put it in Arkansas and I have to put in Little Rock, because I would never have become president without the people of Arkansas and because I think that our national politics have become too theoretical and less human, and we need more examples of what really works in life out in the middle of the country."


The library was dedicated Nov. 18, 2004.


"One rather snobby reviewer, when we opened the library, said it looked like a high-class trailer, and I thought that was all right," Clinton said, getting a laugh from the audience


"But it was supposed to be symbolic of the beginning of a bridge, which is why I was so grateful we finished the bridge project this year," he said, referring to the completion of a project to transform an old railroad bridge on the Arkansas River near the library into a pedestrian and cycling bridge.


Clinton said the symbolism is important to him because "the world is awash now in a conflict between people who want to build bridges and people who want to burn them."


He noted that by the chamber’s estimate, the library has spurred more than $2 billion in investment in the local community and has had a total economic impact of $3.3 billion.


He thanked the chamber for making those estimates and for noting in a report that there are benefits from the Clinton Presidential Center, which includes the library and the University of Arkansas Clinton for School of Public Service, that cannot be measured in dollars.


Clinton said those benefits include having young people from around the world come to Little Rock to attend the Clinton School, along with Arkansas students, and drawing top speakers to Little Rock for the school’s lecture series. He joked that the school’s dean, Skip Rutherford, "made a list of every enemy I ever made to make sure he invited them to come here and speak."


One lesson to be drawn from the Clinton Center’s success, he said, is how much can be accomplished when diverse, inclusive groups work together to address challenges. He said it is fine for the process to involve "real arguments" as long as people have the goal of reaching a decision.


"I’m never upset when they’re fighting in Washington. I’m upset when the fight never ends," he said.


Clinton said he wants the library to send two messages. One is that "election have consequences and policies have consequences, and therefore all good citizens ought to pay attention about what will really effect real people’s lives."


"And I want people to feel empowered, not disempowered," he said.