Saturday, July 20

Missions and Music: Recognizing Presidential Greats; Nelson Mandela & Bill Clinton

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Have you ever wondered what type of music your favorite public figures like? Have you ever wondered what their Pandora station was on, or what songs were on their ipod, or better yet record  and tape players? Let’s take a look into two President Greats of this century and what type of impact music made on their lives as leaders, and on their lives as just people.


One of the greatest leaders of all time, who probably had the most influence in public affairs as well as musical affairs was the late-great Nelson Mandela. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in the Madiba clan in Mvezo, Transkei in South Africa. This Noble Peace Prize winner set an example for many leaders across the world, including the beloved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mandela’s efforts to achieve peace not only across the continent of Africa, but around the globe is world renown.

Nelson Mandela was a well-educated man. Prior to his involvement in politics, he studied law at Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand. In 1962, he was arrested and convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state. Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for leading an anti-apartheid campaign against the government. He served over 27 years of the sentenced before being released in 1990. Mandela  joined efforts to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led the African National Congress to victory and became South Africa’s first black president. 

While he was an inspiration to many artists around the globe, Mandela loved jazz among many other genres of music. People from all four corners of the world have played music for Mandela, some even wrote songs about his anti-apartheid efforts and just how great of a person he was.


Grammy nominated smooth jazz saxohphonist and flutest Najee reflects on the remarkable time when he played for Mandela in South Africa.  It was an experience Najee said he’ll never forget.   “Mandela appreciated music and the arts,” Najee told “I remember when he invited us into his home when we were in South Africa to perform; and Mandela was the greatest, so warm and friendly.   “He just loved music. I think he just loved watching people being happy and music served a big part in that.”    

Former president Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States serving from 1993-2001 – he loves jazz so much he  plays the saxophone!  The Arkansas native democrat was the third youngest inaugurated president at 46 years old. Prior to being president, Clinton, after successfully completing law school at Yale, was elected attorney general of Arkansas, and later became governor. As president of the United States, the welfare system was reformed, the sale of handguns was restricted, environmental regulations were strengthened, and a massive federal budget deficit was turned into a surplus making it what some call one of the most successful tenures in presidency.  

Outside of his successes in political affairs, people enjoyed President Clinton’s overall persona. Clinton was a well-rounded person who had his hands on more than just politics. Clinton, too, was not only a lover a music, but a musician himself. President Clinton loved the saxophone.  And many of you may have already witnessed him playing it on television some years ago when he was a special guest on late night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show. It was there he showcased his saxophone talents on a national scale.

Grammy nominated smoothjazz saxophonist Kirk Whalm who has blown out several smooth jazz hit albums, and singles.. including that powerful saxophone solo in Whitney Houston’s (written by Dolly Parton) trademark song “I Will Always Love You,” remembers the times when he played in the White House for President Clinton.  Whalum said, “It was unforgettable.”

“insert Kirk’s quote here.”

President Clinton has left his mark on the lives of many, not only through politics, but through his love for music. More often than not, people find a negative stigma on those involved in politics, while for some that negative stigma remains with president Clinton, others have embraced him as not only one of the greatest presidents in the United States of America but as a musician and successful individual all together.

“Both icons have a lasting impression on musicans from various generations,” said June R. Glenn, retired public school music teacher and vocalist in Memphis, Tennessee. ” insert more of her quote here.”


Mandela had a great understanding of what music does for people. He understood what kind of joy and hope it can bring. He will forever be remembered as a great politician, lawyer, philanthropist, an amazing revolutionary, and a musical inspiration to jazz artists everywhere.

No matter how far off of the topic of music a conversation may go, music will always be relevant. Like the current leaders of this world, music even has a mission. Music can change a mood, inspire greatness, and ultimately bring change. Who’s to say that the aforementioned people were not inspired to do what they did because of music. Let us not forget those who treaded the path of life before us. Let us also be inspired by the footprints that were left for us to follow. Never let the mission of music die. The music that had a part in the mission may be what has kept us alive.


Photo Courtesy Clinton Library




About Author

Kim Betton is the founder and editorial director of The award winning television anchor/reporter and producer has worked in markets across the U.S.. including NBC4 & USA Sky Radio in Washington, DC, WBKW-TV Buffalo, New York, FOX 13 News Memphis and KARK4 / FOX 16 News in Little Rock,. Kim has a true love for good music! She is also a jazz and off-Broadway musical vocalist. Her love for music and the arts inspired her to launch this magazine. If you have a story idea email her at Thanks for checking us out! Enjoy!

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