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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 28, 1998
                     United States Capitol Rotunda

3:30 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Today we honor two watchmen who guarded not just a building but an ideal, men who lived and labored not only to keep our democracy free from harm but to keep it free and open to all our people.

So many times upon entering this building, I've been greeted by Officer Chestnut standing proudly at his post. So many times as I have walked through this Rotunda, I've been accompanied and guarded by Detective Gibson and the protective detail on which he served. And I know I'm not alone among those who are here today in thinking how fragile is the safety and security we take for granted, how thin the blue lines these brave men and women have drawn for us here in the Capitol and in every American community.

Soon two new names will be inscribed on the Law Enforcement Memorial less than a mile from here, but future generations will owe these men a debt outlasting any monument. As much as any soldier who ever landed on a beach, last week the gatekeepers of our Capitol became the front-line guardians of our freedom. In defending each citizen's right to cross through that doorway in safety, they were defending democracy itself at its core.

It is written in the Scripture that, "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many."

I believe it is men like John Gibson and J.J. Chestnut who are, in a sense, ministers of our democracy and who by virtue of their extraordinary sacrifice are rightly honored here today as chief among us. They also remind us that for all those who suffer and die for righteousness' sake, theirs is the kingdom of God.

Let me say to the Gibson and the Chestnut families, we know nothing can lift your loss. We do not forget that for you, each day forward the sacrifice will go on. But I hope there is comfort and I know there is pride and truth in the poet's words, "How sleep the brave who sink to rest by all their country's wishes blessed."

God bless you, and God bless America.

THE PRESIDENT: To the Chestnut and Gibson families and my fellow Americans, the Bible defines a good life thusly: "To love justice, to do mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."

Officer J.J. Chestnut and Detective John Gibson loved justice. The story of what they did here on Friday in the line of duty is already a legend. It is fitting that we gather here to honor these two American heroes, here in this hallowed chamber that has known so many heroes, in this Capitol they gave their lives to defend.

And we thank their families for enduring the pain and extra burden of joining us here today. For they remind us that what makes our democracy strong is not only what Congress may enact or a president may achieve; even more, it is the countless individual citizens who live our ideals out every day, the innumerable acts of heroism that go unnoticed, and, especially, it is the quiet courage and uncommon bravery of Americans like J.J. Chestnut and John Gibson and, indeed, every one of the 81 police officers who just this year have given their lives to ensure our domestic tranquility.

John Gibson and J.J. Chestnut also did mercy in giving their lives to save the lives of their fellow citizens. We honor them today, and in so doing we honor also the hundreds of thousands of other officers, including all of their comrades, who stand ready every day to do the same. They make it seem so ordinary, so expected, asking for no awards or acknowledgement, that most of us do not always appreciate -- indeed, most of the time we do not even see -- their daily sacrifice. Until crisis reveals their courage, we do not see how truly special they are. And so they walked humbly.

To the Gibsons, to Lyn, Kristen, Jack, and Danny, to the Chestnuts, Wen Ling, Joseph, Janice, Janet, Karen, and William, to the parents, the brothers, the siblings, the friends here -- you always knew that John and J.J. were special. Now the whole world knows as well.

Today we mourn their loss and we celebrate their lives. Our words are such poor replacements for the joys of family and friends, the turning of the seasons, the rhythms of normal life that should rightfully have been theirs. But we offer them to you from a grateful nation, profoundly grateful that in doing their duty they saved lives, they consecrated this house of freedom, and they fulfilled our Lord's definition of a good life. They loved justice. They did mercy. Now, and forever, they walk humbly with their God.

END 3:40 P.M. EDT