THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT WOMEN'S VIETNAM MEMORIAL PRESENTATION
The Oval Office
1:17 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I want to welcome Diane Evans and all the members of the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project who are here to do an unveiling of a model of the statue, which will be formally commemorated tomorrow on Veteran's Day. I have a few other remarks I want to make in a moment, but let me just say that the people who have worked on this project deserve the thanks of the nation. They have worked for years and years, and today and tomorrow are very big days for them.
I wanted to give them the opportunity to be seen today by the United States in bringing this model to the White House, where it will be on permanent display. And I want to introduce Diane now to say whatever she'd like to say and then do the unveiling.
MS. EVANS: Thank you, President Clinton. Two hundred and sixty-five thousand women served during the Vietnam War around the world. Tomorrow, on Veteran's Day, we will dedicate this memorial honoring and remembering them. It will be the very first monument in our Nation's Capital honoring the American military woman.
As we do this unveiling, I would like to invite the Vietnam veteran women, our board of directors for the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project, to assist me.
Dee Lippman from Connecticut is the vice-chair of the project. She served in Japan during the Vietnam War.
This grand lady, Evangeline Jamison, served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Jane Carson served in the Army Nurse Corps for 27 years. Jane is our keynote speaker tomorrow.
Glenna Goodacre is the sculptor. Without Glenna's understanding heart and gifted hands and skillful hands -- show us your hands, Glenna -- (laughter.) It took a lot of this and a lot of this, because it took legislation, as you know, to grant us the site to place this memorial here in the Nation's Capital. But it took Glenna to create this monument so that it could be approved by some very tough commissions in this city. (Laughter.)
The Commission of Fine Arts, chaired by Mr. Jay Carter Brown and the National Capital Memorial Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission; and, of course, Secretary Babbitt is here with us today. And without the National Park Service and their wonderful support -- truly, their wonderful support -- we would not be here.
Before we do this unveiling, I would just like to say that the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project truly is a testament to grass roots, and what the grass roots can do when the grass roots gets behind an idea. The idea to place this statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was really a very simple idea. We've honored the men -- we have a statue there portraying men in the flesh and blood, if you will, a physical portrayal. Now we have the statue to the men -- it's a very simple idea; we put a statue to the women there. But that was 10 years ago. It took us 10 years and enormous political hurdles and bureaucratic nightmares to arrive at this historic occasion which will take place tomorrow.
So, to the grassroots people, our thanks from the board of directors goes to the people of America who got behind this effort, because they did want to say thank you to the women who served in Vietnam. For many years, we did wonder if the nation cared. Most of us came home from Vietnam in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, and we came home to a nation that was hostile towards us.
But tomorrow, we will see that that has changed, because the people of America are coming here tomorrow to say thank you to the women. So with that --
MS. JAMISON: May I say a word? (Laughter.) You know, seven years ago I learned that Diane's birthday is the 10th of November. I have celebrated her birthday with her every year since. She has not been able to celebrate it with her husband and children -- four beautiful children -- but with me and some of us. So it's again, happy birthday, Diane. (Laughter and applause.)
MS. EVANS: A dream come true.
MS. JAMISON: Best birthday gift you ever had.
MS. GOODACRE: President Clinton, you understand that this is the original mockette that was done from the sketches they had that they did for the competition. And this went through all the commissions here in Washington and was finally approved. So we're terribly proud of the composition and the meaning that it has so much for the veterans -- the men as well as the women.
I've had several men tell me "I identify with her; that's how I felt." And I had a man -- when we were working on it the other day to polish it, and he was telling me that this was his son in his mind, because he had died and he knew the last face he saw was a Vietnam nurse.
So this is a monument for healing, though. Where the wall represents the men that died; these women took care of these soldiers, and this man is going to live. Those are my thoughts.
This lady is, to me, with her hand on the nurses shoulder, saying, "here come the medivac helicopters; hang on, we'll get him out."
So it is a sculpture in the round, and in fact, you do walk all around them.
THE PRESIDENT: This is wonderful. (Applause.)
Secretary Babbitt, Mr. Brown, do you want to say anything?
SECRETARY BABBITT: It's a great pleasure to be here. It's really incredible. I sense that this brings this mall together in its meaning and in its remembrance, and its healing effect. I guess I'm just really pleased, Mr. President, to be the landlord.
THE PRESIDENT: And you're about to witness the transfer.
MR. BROWN: Mr. President, I'd just like to make one observation. It appears to me that this memorial here is a living memorial. It speaks to all people who pass by that freedom is not free; that there is a cost for war when you place people in armed conflict. And that I think in that respect, it will serve our nation very, very well as a symbol of peace, and the extent with which we will go to to make sure that peace comes about in our world.
THE PRESIDENT: These documents, first of all, are witnesses that I am going to sign attesting the conveyance of the memorial to the Department of the Interior. This is a proclamation which names the National Women's Veterans Recognition Week that on this year is Veteran's Day, to recognize the special importance of that. So I am going to sign these with all these pens so that all the people here can have --
(The Proclamation is signed.)
MS. EVANS: It is now official. (Laughter and applause.)
President Clinton, we would like to give you our commemorative program to the celebration of patriotism and courage. This is like a textbook about the women who served -- stories about them, photographs of them. And it will be given to all women veterans tomorrow at the dedication.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Thank you all very much.
Q Mr. President, we know you're happy with the performance of the Vice President. Is there going to be any effect on Capital Hill?
THE PRESIDENT: I think so. We'll talk more about it in the press conference in a few minutes.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END2:29 P.M. EST