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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 19, 2001
Remarks by the President at Dedication of Oklahoma City National Memorial
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
12:50 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for your kind words. Thank you all very much. Thank you very much. Mr. Governor, thank you very much. The picture was a better picture. (Laughter.)
Laura and I are honored to be here. I want to thank the choirs for their beautiful music. I want to thank the congressional delegation for your hospitality. Mr. Mayor, thank you very much; it's good to see you again, sir.
I appreciate so very much the tour of the Memorial Center we just took. It is a really well done place. It's powerful. And, Bob Johnson, you and your board deserve a lot of credit.
I particularly want to thank our tour guides, Jeannine Gist and Richard Williams and Major Ed Hill. A lot of Americans are going to come and be better people for having walked through this center.
I want to thank the families of the victims, the survivors and the fine citizens of the great state of Oklahoma for your welcome.
One of the things that we remember of that day in 1995 is the conduct of the leaders of Oklahoma -- Oklahoma City and of your state, particularly your governor and his great wife, Cathy. You had just taken office, Frank -- and, yet, in the aftermath of the awful moment you showed such character and strength. America came to admire that, and the people of Oklahoma will never forget it. (Applause.)
Americans found a lot to admire in Oklahoma during those days. You suffered so much and you responded with courage. Your loss was great and your pain was deep; but far greater and deeper was your care for one another. That is what lasts and that's what brings us back to this place on this day.
Memorials do not take away the pain. They cannot fill the emptiness. But they can make a place in time and tell the value of what was lost. The debris is gone and the building is no more. Now, this is a place of peace and remembrance and life.
A mother who lost her daughter here will be working in the new museum. She said, when I come down here to the memorial I've always felt a very good feeling -- this is where she was happy, and this is where she was last. The time for mourning may pass, but the time for remembering never does.
Here, we remember one act of malice. The Gates of Time record the very moment of it. Yet, we also remember many acts of human kindness and heroism and love. Some are recorded, some not. But by 9:03 a.m. on that morning, a new and hopeless story was already being written. The truth of Oklahoma City is the courage and comfort you found in one another. It began with the rescue. It continues with this memorial. It is recorded in this museum.
Together, you endured. You chose to live out the words of St. Paul, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Applause.)
Because of this spirit, your memorial belongs to all America. People from all over our country come here every day, and will always come to look and remember and say a prayer. Oklahoma City will always be one of those places in our national memory where the worst and the best both came to pass.
The presence of evil always reminds us of the need for vigilance. All of us have an obligation to confront evil, wherever and whenever it manifests itself. We must enforce laws and reject hatred and bigotry. And we have a duty to watch for warning signs.
Last year the United States Secret Service conducted a study of targeted violence in our nation's schools. They found that most of the time, the person who planned the violence told someone before the attack. In almost every case, the individual displayed some behavior that caused others to be concerned. We all have a duty to watch for and report troubling signs.
The evil that destroys and the good that saves are equally real. Both can be taught. Both can be learned. All order in our society begins in the souls of citizens. Character is often shaped or bent early in life. In every family, and in every school, we must teach our children to know and choose the good, to teach values that defeat violence, to teach good kids -- kids to respect one another, to do unto others, the meaning of love.
Our first response to evil must be justice, yet a part of us is never satisfied by justice alone. We must search for more -- for understanding and healing, beyond punishment. Faith tells us that all wrongs are righted, and all suffering redeemed. But that faith is tested, especially for those of you with empty chairs at home. Hardest of all is the loss of the children, of the lives taken so soon after they were given.
I hope it helps to remember that we are never closer to God then when we grieve. Faith is tested in suffering. And faith is often born in suffering, for that is when we seek the hope we most need. That is when we awaken to the greatest hope there is, that is when we look beyond our lives to the hour when God will wipe away every tear, and death will be swallowed up in victory.
On this earth, tragedy may come even on a warm spring day, but tragedy can never touch eternity. This is where they were last; but beyond the gates of time lie a life eternal and a love everlasting. You in Oklahoma City are victims of tragedy and witnesses to hope. You have overcome evil, and you have suffered with courage. And for that, your nation is grateful.
God bless. (Applause.)
END 12:58 P.M. EST