When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, he chose as his campaign theme song “Don’t Stop,” a song by Christine McVie from the Rumours album. At the time, with George H. W. Bush in the White House after eight years of Ronald Reagan, the song came to symbolize the passing of the torch of leadership to the Baby Boomer generation, as well as the idea that the future could be brighter, if Americans worked to make it so.
The song, which peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100 in 1977, played such an important part in the campaign that the classic Rumours lineup of Fleetwood Mac reunited to play President Clinton’s inaugural ball.
Below, President Clinton remembers how he chose the song, as well as what it represents.
In June of 1991, when I was still Governor of Arkansas, I flew to Los Angeles for an event. The young man who was driving me to my speech, Shawn Landres, asked me if I was going to run for President the next year. I told him I hadn’t made a decision yet. He told me, “Well, I think you should run, and when you do, this should be your campaign song.” Then he popped a Fleetwood Mac tape into the tape deck and played “Don’t Stop.” I’d loved that song and Fleetwood Mac for years, and as soon as Shawn suggested it, I knew it was a brilliant idea. Once I got in the race, some of my staff tried to get me to go with a more current song, but I held out and hoped I’d get permission to use it.
“Don’t Stop” was the perfect choice because politics at its best is about people and making the future better for them. Life requires all of us to live in the present and for the future. We can’t unlive or completely forget the past. And the memories of our victories and defeats, our mistakes and moments of pride, can make us wiser for what happens next. But if every day is consumed by the past, it’s another day lost in a quickly passing life.
When I was a student at Georgetown, my professor of Western Civilization, Carroll Quigley, taught me about the idea of “future preference.” He said that America became the greatest nation in history because our people had always embraced two important ideas: that tomorrow can be better than today, and that every one of us has a personal, moral obligation to make it so. I quoted him often throughout my 1992 campaign and both my terms in office, and “Don’t Stop” captured the sentiment perfectly, with both its lyrics and its upbeat, simple melody.
Everyone knows Christine McVie was a great songwriter, but it turns out she was a pretty good political philosopher, too. I’ll always be grateful to her – and to Mick, Stevie, John, and Lindsey – for being so generous in letting me use the song, for reuniting to play at my Inaugural, for giving me a lifetime of great music and memories, and, of course, for that roadmap to the future.