A 10-day celebration to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center kicks off this weekend. The library is working with several community partners to host over 35 events Sunday through November 18th.
Gretchen Hall, president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the celebration is to mark the impact the presidential library has had on the region.
"We’re calling it 'Little Rock’s Decade of Progress' and really it provides us the perfect opportunity to take a look back and see just how far we’ve come and be able to celebrate all of that together as a community, and also continue to welcome visitors into our wonderful destination,” said Hall.
Hall says the number of tourists visiting Little Rock from around the world is up 25 percent compared to 10 years ago. She credits the establishment of the library as a significant factor.
Skip Rutherford, dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, coordinated the original planning of the library. He says progress has been made on the original goals.
"Economic development has exceeded all expectations. Not only was the River Market area transformed, not only were new apartments and condos and hotels built, but you’re now seeing a revival of Main Street, you’re seeing the new Robinson Center, you’ve seen Argenta develop in North Little Rock and it’s just been spectacular," Rutherford said.
Other goals, he says, included education, archives, and tourism. Rutherford also pointed to the nearly 600 service projects completed by students pursuing degrees in Masters of Public Service as evidence of a deeper, less tangible impact on Arkansas.
Michael Twyman, Director of UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity, believes the ongoing speakers series, which has drawn world and national leaders to the library, has contributed meaningfully by "really facilitating dialog, being a place whereby people can come and engage in discussions that are often uncomfortable even sometimes taboo but are so very important in terms of healing and moving towards reconciliation."
Improvements in race relations are often difficult to assess, taking years to measure, but Twyman is hopeful that noticeable gains will continue to be made in the upcoming decade.
Celebratory events include concerts, art and science exhibits, panel discussions, and movies. More details about the anniversary celebration and the reasons for it can be found here.