— Hillary Rodham felt an "immediate attraction" for a classmate at Yale who "looked like a Viking," and says she and the then-bushy haired Bill Clinton remain married today because of a mutual intellectual fascination that has never faded.
"No one understands me better, and no one can make me laugh the way Bill does," she told ABCNEWS' Barbara Walters, reading from her new book, Living History, out today. "Even after all these years, he's still the most interesting, energizing and fully alive person I have ever met. Bill Clinton started a conversation in the spring of 1971, and more than 30 years later we're still talking."
In her exclusive interview with Walters — which aired Sunday night as an ABCNEWS special, Hillary Clinton's Journey: Public, Private, Personal With Barbara Walters — Clinton describes meeting the future president when both were students at Yale Law School.
"There was a point at which … I still hadn't really met him, and I was sitting in the library, and he was standing just outside the door," she said. "He was looking at me, and I was looking at him. And I finally thought this was ridiculous, because every time I saw him on campus I just couldn't take my eyes off of him, and he was always watching me.
"So I put my books down, I walked out, and I said, 'You know, if you're going to keep looking at me, and I'm going to keep looking back, we should know each other. I'm Hillary Rodham.' And he told me his name. He tells people that he couldn't remember his name.
"It was an immediate attraction, and it was just a life changing experience to have met him," she said.
‘Tried and Tested’
Eventually, as they collaborated professionally on her successful run for the U.S. Senate, that attraction, admiration and intellectual connection even overcame the marital troubles the couple had as a result of his inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
"I reached the point where I decided that I was either going to have to forgive … and let go of the anger and the disappointment that I had felt, or we weren't going to have a marriage," she said. "And both of us worked very, very hard to reach that point.
"We've really been tried and tested, and we are at the point now that we're looking forward," she said. "I hope that we'll grow old together. That's how I look at our future."
From Yale to Arkansas
When she met Bill Clinton, she was one of 27 women among 235 students at Yale Law School.
"He looked like a Viking," she said. "He had this big, bushy, brownish-reddish beard, and longish hair, and he looked very imposing."
As they fell in love, he repeatedly asked her to marry him. She says she hesitated at first, not wanting to hinder her budding career. But eventually, she "followed my heart," and the couple moved back to Clinton's home state of Arkansas, where he soon was elected governor.
At first, it was difficult for her to adjust to the pace and styles of her adopted state.
"I didn't have an accent — a southern accent anyway — and, you know, I'd worn blue jeans and work shirts and … big old sweaters all during law school, so I did have some adjusting to do," she said.
"But I loved Arkansas," she said. "And the people of Arkansas were not only very good to me, but I made some of the best friends that I've ever made."
‘Partisan Campaign to Undermine Bill and Me’