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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 14, 1999
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                        AT THE DEDICATION OF THE

                            Washington, D.C.

4:47 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Secretary Summers, Director Stafford, Commissioner Peck, Monsignor Vaghi, Ms. Worley, Congressman Kolbe and Congressman Hoyer, Sergeant at Arms Livingood, Mr. Berger, Secretary Johnson. And I especially appreciate the presence of three former Directors of the Secret Service here today, Eljay Bowron and John Magaw and Stu Knight, I thank them for coming.

I thank the Marines for giving us such wonderful music today. Didn't they do a great job? Thank you. (Applause.) I think that's the only thing I'm going to miss more than Air Force One when I'm gone, having music everywhere I go, provided by the Marines. (Laughter.)

I wanted to be here for a number of reasons today. At first, I just wanted to look out and see some friendly faces -- I just finished a press conference. (Laughter.) It's nice to do that. I wanted to see this beautiful building and I knew I would be given the experience of seeing this beautiful building. I want to thank Larry Cockell for letting me come in the front door today. (Laughter.) Usually when I go into a building the Secret Service makes me go into an underground parking garage, past all the garbage -- (laughter) -- up the service elevator. You think -- the last time I went to the Hilton here, I have been in the service entrance so much that they had an employee in every section of the Hilton Hotel, in every part of, they met me when I came in and they gave me a laminated employee ID card. (Laughter.) Just something else I owe to the Secret Service.

I also was hoping that I might get another invitation to try out some more of your Secret Service training that I got at Beltsville, with Hillary, a couple of years ago. We're still looking for that escape pod on Air Force One, we haven't found that yet. (Laughter.)

I want to also say how much I appreciate the leadership that Brian has given to the Secret Service. The only apprehension I had about his becoming the Director was that he wanted to extend the protection of the PPD to country music singers and motorcycle gangs -- (laughter) -- and I had to draw the line somewhere.

Actually, I came here most of all to say thanks. I compliment the architects, the contractors and all those involved in the construction of this magnificent building. And I do believe it will reinforce all the values and sense of community that Brian talked about.

Harry Truman once said, the Secret Service was the only boss he had as President, with the exception of Mrs. Truman. And even when I don't like it, I have to admit that's true. And I came here to say thank you on behalf of Hillary and Chelsea and myself. I know Hillary wanted to be here today. I can't tell you how -- I feel about the Secret Service the way I sometimes feel about some of my friends in the Congress: I like them a lot more than they like me.

They've had to put up with me on so many different occasions, under such stress. You know, you wake up in the morning and you're worried about something else, and you take it out by being a little short. You're impatient because you're tired and you've got a headache. They have to put up with all of it and act like you're still President, even when you're not acting like it; you're really being a person.

I think of all the sacrifices that the Secret Service and the PPD has made. I think about all these long, exhausting trips we take. I've seen the worried look in the agents' eyes whenever I get out and make some spontaneous stop into an unmagged crowd. A lot of times at night, I'm working late and I come down and I walk in between -- sometimes after midnight -- between the office and the house, and the agents are always there. And I often wonder how many children they have and how hard it must be for them to be awake while their children are sleeping, and sleeping while their children are awake.

Sometimes, I just worry that they're going to have a heart attack on the job. I never will forget the first time -- all the Secret Service who have been in PPD know this -- there's this sort of this elaborate little electronic guard system out around the White House. And if anything triggers the alarm, if you'll forgive me, all hell breaks loose for the Secret Service. You know, they've convinced that, you know, 45 terrorists are storming the gates; they have to do it. That's why we're all so taken care of.

Anything, any little old thing, can trigger that deal. And I remember the first time that happened. I didn't know it. I was up on the third floor of the White House and the residence is on the second floor, and I didn't know what happens. So what happens is, the elevator stops, and the SWAT team occupies the staircase with their semiautomatic weapons.

So they're all looking for somebody that's invading the White House. I come tromping down the staircase to the third floor, this guy comes rushing up on the second floor, I look up and there he is with his weapon pointed at me, and I thought: this would be a heck of a note for the Secret Service. (Laughter.) "Clinton killed by agent protecting the President." (Laughter.) That poor -- I think he still has nightmares about that. (Laughter.)

We're all laughing about it, but this is a hard job. And it's an important job. And it's important, the protections that are provided to other people and all the other things the Secret Service does, and I want to say more about that in a moment. But especially, I want everyone to know -- I want Larry and Donny and all the people on PPD and all their predecessors to know how profoundly grateful I am for the way my wife and my daughter and I have been treated and genuinely cared for, and protected whether we like it or not. It has made an enormous degree of difference in the confidence with which I think the American people can express toward their government, and we are all in your debt.

I also want to thank you for naming this building after the 32 brave men and women who gave their lives in guarding our democracy, and in whose memory the building now stands. Ten of those 32, I'm sad to say, lost their lives during my presidency, including the six in the Oklahoma City bombing, one of the most difficult events in my life.

You have honored their memory in two ways: first, by naming this building in their honor; and, second, by using this building to continue your mission and their mission. Most people know the Secret Service as these sort of mysterious, stone-faced figures that are either steely-eyed or masked behind sexy sunglasses, protecting presidents and visiting world leaders. They don't know much about the ongoing efforts of the Secret Service to protect the integrity of our financial system, but that's a proud history that stretches back 130 years now.

When our country was awash in counterfeit currency after the Civil War, America turned to the Secret Service. When three Presidents were assassinated in four decades, America turned to the Secret Service, broadening the mandate at the beginning of this century to include protective duties.

Now, with the new challenges we face in a new and rapidly-changing world, America still turns to the Secret Service. You are out there every day, fighting telecommunications fraud, credit card fraud, computer crimes, counterfeiting, abuses of government programs, taking on your investigative and protective assignments across the country and all around the world.

Regardless of the times or the tasks, there has always been a thread of honor and integrity, trust and true, confident performance. Also, a remarkable ability to adapt to change and challenge. Those values are symbolized in this building. It is a solid, solid building, standing on a firm foundation, but looking toward the future.

So, today, I'm honored to join you in dedicating this building and honoring the memory of those who gave their lives for what you do every day and in saying a special, special word of profound appreciation for the many sacrifices so many have made for me and my family and our country. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 4:58 P.M. EDT