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Clinton appears at Darien bookstore; says tour will focus on independent shops

Updated 4:11 pm, Friday, December 9, 2011

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  • Former President Bill Clinton autographs a copy of his book, "Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy," for the Bowman family Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 at Barrett Bookstore in Darien, Conn.  Serena Bowman kept daughters Katherine, 11, and Alexandra, 9, out of school for the event. Photo: Autumn Driscoll / Connecticut Post
    Former President Bill Clinton autographs a copy of his book, "Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy," for the Bowman family Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 at Barrett Bookstore in Darien, Conn. Serena Bowman kept daughters Katherine, 11, and Alexandra, 9, out of school for the event. Photo: Autumn Driscoll

 

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Bill Clinton appeared at Barrett Bookstore in Darien Friday, giving 550 locals the opportunity to have books autographed and talk politics with the former president. Crowds of people showed up to the event and waited on long lines while hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

Clinton briefly spoke to the press before his signing began.

"One of the things I'm trying to do with this book tour is to visit independent bookstores, because bookstores like this one really add a lot to the community," he said.

One of Clinton's hopes is that people will be motivated to try to help alleviate the issues with the economy.

"You can always do better when you organize other people. Crowds can move mountains," he said.

Clinton specifically noted how much he wanted to appear at an independent bookstore because his local store in Chappaqua, N.Y., recently closed. One of the problems he sees for businesses, especially bookstores, is the amount of competition and the changing marketplace. When asked if he would consider making any purchases at Barrett Bookstore, Clinton readily admitted he would be happy to look around and would most likely make a purchase before leaving town.

People began lining up outside the store before 11 a.m., including First Selectman Jayme Stevenson.

"It is incredibly exciting for Darien and Barrett Bookstore to be selected," she said. "It's very exciting for a beloved local business."

Stevenson, who purchased a voucher before they sold out, said she hoped people would take advantage of the nearby stores to shop before getting in line.

"I really hope people will take advantage of all the wonderful businesses around here while they are waiting and after they get a book signed," she said.

Other voucher holders were equally excited while they stood on line before the event began. Some pulled their children out of school early so they would have the opportunity to meet a former president.

"We came here hoping we could get a picture signed that a friend of ours gave us. We're really excited and I just picked up my kids from school to bring them here," Louise Waylett-Brown said.

For others, just the opportunity to meet a man they had idolized for years was worth waiting in the brisk air for just a moment with Clinton. Noel Sparrow was thrilled when she walked outside with her signed book.

"I was very excited to meet one of my heroes and it was quite overwhelming," she said.

Valerie Brecker, who drove from Ridgefield to get a book signed, said she couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet Clinton.

"I'm a big Bill Clinton fan and I thought I should be here to meet him," she said.

As excited as people were as they waited in a line that wrapped around the side of the bookstore, others were equally disappointed when they showed up hoping to purchase a voucher at the last minute and were turned away by bookstore employees, Darien Police and Secret Service. All 550 vouchers were sold by Thursday afternoon.

Rosanna Nissen, Barrett's event coordinator, sent an e-mail Tuesday announcing the store had confirmed Clinton's appearance.

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Clinton's team asked Random House, the publisher of his book, to suggest an independent bookstore in the area for a signing event on Friday. Random House recommended Barrett Bookstore.

"Needless to say, we are absolutely thrilled," Nissen said Thursday. "There has been a fantastic response from the community."

Barrett Bookstore was the first Connecticut book tour stop for the Democratic icon, who won the Nutmeg State in 1992 against incumbent President George H.W. Bush and again in 1996 against challenger Bob Dole.

Clinton signed his new book, "Back to Work: Why we Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy."

When he was first elected in 1993, the country's unemployment rate sat at 7.3 percent. In his eight years as president, that number declined to 4.2 percent, compared to today's 8.6 percent, according to Department of Labor statistics.

During his presidency, Clinton had the lowest rate of inflation in 30 years, the highest rate of home ownership and fewer people on welfare, according to his biography on www.whitehouse.gov. During his second term he failed to pass health-care reform but declared the "era of big government is over."

According to the Labor Department statistics, during his two terms, more than 22 million jobs were created in the private and public sector.

Clinton's book details his ideas for restoring the economy and how the government plays an integral role in the creating economic growth, according to a synopsis posted on Random House's website.

"He explains how we got into the current economic crisis, and offers specific recommendations on how we can put people back to work, increase bank lending and corporate investment, double our exports, restore our manufacturing base, and create new businesses. He supports President Obama's emphasis on green technology, saying that changing the way we produce and consume energy is the strategy most likely to spark a fast-growing economy while enhancing our national security," the synopsis said.

The book, which went on sale Nov. 8, also discusses Clinton's thoughts on the dangers of blaming the government for people's problems and how the government can work with the private sector to create more jobs.

Clinton remained at the bookstore for more than two hours, signing one book per person and engaging in political banter. He did not have time to add personal messages or sign copies of previous books but he did sign a few pictures for those who asked.

Waylett-Brown wasn't sure if Clinton would sign her photo, as the bookstore's rules allowed book cover autographs only. She waited patiently, met with Clinton and exited the store near the end of the event with her photo clutched triumphantly in hand.

"He signed it!" she said as she held the photo up for passerby to see while demonstrating the excitement that the entire day brought to Darien.