THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release April 19, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE OKLAHOMA CITY NATIONAL MEMORIAL DEDICATION Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
6:05 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Governor Keating. I wanted to be here today, and I was grateful to be asked. I wanted to thank you and Kathy for all you have done. Thank you, Senator Nickels and members of the congressional delegation. Thank you, Mayor Humphreys, and I thank your predecessor, Mayor Norick. Thank you, Chairman Johnson; thank you, Karen Luke.
I thank all of the federal leaders who are here today who lost their employees and worked so hard -- Attorney General Reno and our Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Transportation; the leaders of the Office of Personnel Management; the Customs, the ATF and the Secret Service and many others. I thank Bob Stanton and the Park Service for making sure this place would be well cared for, forever.
I thank the unknown number of people who contributed to the building of this magnificent monument and to the scholarship fund. I thank General Ferrell and all those who are working and will work here from now on to combat terrorism. I congratulate the young couple who designed this magnificent memorial and I think we should give them a round of applause. (Applause.)
I thank the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Brass and the Memorial Community Choir and Shawntel Smith for their ringing and wonderful music today.
Most of all, I thank the families who lost your loved ones; the survivors and your families, the rescue workers and the family of Oklahoma for setting an example for America. I can add little now to the words and music, even more to the silence and amazing grace of this memorial. Its empty chairs recall the Mercy Seat of Old Testament scripture -- a place for the children of God to come for renewal and dedication.
So this is a day both for remembrance and for renewal. Hillary and I will never forget being with you at that first memorial service while the rescue teams were still searching. I know the last five years have not been easy. I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that, just as I said five years ago, America is still with you, and that with this memorial you can know America will never forget.
As the Governor said in alluding to Gettysburg, there are places in our national landscape so scarred by freedom's sacrifice that they shape forever the soul of America -- Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Selma. This place is such sacred ground.
I think you should all know that it was on this exact day 225 years ago that the American Revolution began. What a 225 years it has been. The brave Americans we lost here 220 years later were not fighting a war, but they were patriots in service to their fellow citizens, just as much as the police and fire and other public servants are here among us today. And they were children whose promise keeps our old democracy forever young.
Five years ago, the cowards who killed them made a choice -- a chocie to attack this building and the people in it, because they wanted to strike a blow at America's heartland, at the core of our nation's being. This was an attack on all America and every American.
Five years later, we are here because you made a choice; a choice to choose hope and love over despair and hatred. It is easy for us to say today, and even, perhaps, easy for you to clap today -- but I know that this wise choice was also a very hard won, especially for the families of the victims. I know there are still days when the old anger wells up inside you; still days when tears fill your eyes, when you think your heart will surely break. On those days in the future, I hope you can come here and find solace in the memory of your loved ones, in the honor of your fellow citizens.
I hope you can find the strength to live a full and loving life, free of hatred, which only cripples. I believe your loved ones would want you to have that life. And though you have given too much, you still have so much to give.
The great writer, Ralph Ellison, who was a native of this city, once said, "America is woven of many strands...our fate is to become one, and yet many." On April 19, 1995, our many strands became one -- one in love and support for you, and in our determined opposition to terrorism. You taught us again how much stronger we are when we all stand together in our common humanity, to protect life, liberty and the rule of law for all.
We may never have all the answers for what happened here. But as we continue our journey toward understanding, one truth is clear: what was meant to break has made you stronger.
As I left the White House today, I looked, as I often do, at your tree -- the beautiful dogwood Hillary and I planted on the South Lawn five years ago for those who were lost here. Five years later, that tree stands a little taller, its spring flowers are a little fuller, its roots have dug in a little deeper. But it's still a young tree.
Five years isn't a very long time for trees to grow, or for wounds to heal and hearts to mend. But today, like your beautiful dogwood tree on the White House lawn, Oklahoma City clearly is blooming again. For that, all your fellow Americans -- and, indeed, decent, good people all over the world -- are grateful to you. And grateful to God for the grace that led you on.
In Romans it is said, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light."
May you keep on your armor of light -- may you keep your light shining on this place of hope -- where memories of the lost and the meaning of America will live forever.
May God bless you, and God bless America. (Applause.)
END 6:15 P.M. CDT