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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 13, 1997
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                        CITY MEMORIAL FOUNDATION

Roosevelt Room

6:09 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank your very much. Thank you, Mayor, and thank you for your extraordinary leadership in a very difficult time. I thank you, Robert Johnson, for taking on this project and seeing it through with such care and ability and love. Governor, Kathy, thank you for being here. Councilman Schwartz, Madam Attorney General, I would like to thank you and, through you and Mr. Young, all the people who worked so hard on this from the federal government in the days and months and for a long time afterward. And, Toby, thank you for the sapling.

I will take good care of it. I have already been advised by the people who run the grounds here that I cannot run out and plant it -- (laughter) -- in the hot Washington summer but that we can keep it in our greenhouse. And then in October we will plant it alongside the dogwood on the White House lawn. It is a great gift to the American people. It comes from what is a true tree of life, and that tree will always remind us of the city, the people who bent but did not break.

Hillary and I will never forget what happened on April 19, 1995, or our trips there afterward, the losses people endured, the heroism of the rescue workers, the compassion of the neighbors and the friends from around America. And I think we now know that, in spite of everything, you did not lose America. And America, I think, is very proud of the people of Oklahoma City and the entire state of Oklahoma. I think there is not a citizen in our country that didn't identify with the people in that awful moment and in the days afterward. Every one of us who ever came there and saw you wearing the pictures of your loved ones, we saw our children and our parents and our sisters and our brothers.

We owe you an enormous debt because you have given us a gift, too, of reminding us of what is truly important. I have talked to Governor Keating about this at times -- you know, we went to college together and we sort of weren't in the same political party back then either -- (laughter) -- and the issues that we deal with now make the ones we dealt with then seem small. But the truth is, here in this town where we do a lot of things that are very important, and we argue and we debate and we ferociously struggle over things that in that awful moment were stripped of all their pretense and significance, and we were reminded once again, as we are today, about the things which really count in life, the things which God has given to all of us, the things which no one can take away, and the things that perhaps we'll do a better job of never forgetting in the pressure of our daily lives when we sometimes are fooled into thinking that what we're doing now will be of some lasting benefit, more profound than the simple gift of life and the human spirit that we have been given and that it is our charge to preserve as best we can for all of our fellow citizens.

That was a gift that the people of Oklahoma City gave to me, that your dignity and generosity and yours, Mayor, and all the people gave to me, and I'm very grateful to you for it. And I think that maybe it makes all of us who were so moved by it a little more effective and a little more human day in and day out than we otherwise might have been. And for those of you who endured terrible losses, perhaps at least you can know that your loved ones and what they gave up live on in all of us trying just a little harder every day to be better people and to do the right thing than we might have otherwise done.

I want to also say that I have been terrifically impressed by the design for this memorial. It is elegant. It is symbolic. It manages to focus on this act of unconscionable violence and still honor the valor of the people of the community and the lives of the victims in a setting of reflection and peace that should leave people, when they go through it, feeling stronger rather than weaker. And that is no small task. So I'm glad, Hans and Torrey, you're here, and I wish Mr. Berg was here. This is an inspired effort, and you too will give, over time, millions of people a gift that is truly priceless.

Let me say, too -- Mr. Johnson talked about this, but I want to compliment the process. I have no doubt that the totally open and democratic nature of this process, the reaching out to the family members and the survivors every step of the way, was absolutely indispensable to the healing of the people who were affected by what happened. I also have no doubt that it gave you a better memorial -- a more powerful, more profound, more lasting memory. I also understand that there are several people here who have made substantial financial contributions to make it possible for the groundbreaking to occur next April, and I want to thank all of them. And having been involved in matters like this in the past, I want to encourage others to help them until the full cost is met.

Let me say that there's something we should do at the national level as well. We all know that the Oklahoma City bombing was an attack, not just on the people, a city, a state, but the nation, and as the mayor said, on what we stand for, how we govern ourselves and the values we live by. The Congress is now considering legislation to make all three components of the Oklahoma City Memorial a national monument and part of our national park system. I strongly support that goal.

The tragedy was a national one, and the memorial should be recognized and embraced and supported by the nation. Thanks to the Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation and the family members and the survivors, we have now reached another crucial stage in our recovery, and we have now a memorial that I hope will be part of our national park system -- a memorial of true power and amazing grace.

I'm grateful to all of you. I look forward to the success of the legislation, and, again I say, you have helped our nation, and for that, we are very grateful.

Thank you.

END 6:17 P.M. EDT