Oklahoma City National Memorial Dedication

Sunday, October 25, 1998

Today, in the dark shadow of memory, we gather to seek the light. To find in this soil, nourished with a million tears, the harvest of God's healing grace.

For I believe in the words of the scripture: "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

The people who died here were victims of one of the cruelest visitations of evil this nation has ever seen. But we offer them today not pity, but honor -- for as much as any soldier who ever fought in any war -- they paid the price of our freedom.

They were busy here that bright spring morning -- processing Social Security checks, providing day care, helping families find housing, helping farmers plant their spring crops.

And to those who are ever tempted to denigrate the labor of our self-government, and demean our hard-working government employees, come here and be silent, and remember.

Open your eyes and your hearts and you will see that on the chain link fence all around us -- filled with flowers and prayers and teddy bears -- is written the real story of our democracy. This is how we feel.

And on this day, we build a memorial, with a seat for each of the 168 who died, because we will never forget the lives they lived.

Kimberly Clark, who was looking forward to her wedding the next Saturday. Marine Captain Randy Guzman -- twenty eight years old -- who led infantry in the Persian Gulf War. Antonio Cooper, Jr. -- six months old -- who had just learned to say his first word. Zachary Chavez, three years old -- now buried near his mother's home, so she can visit him every day. Aaron Coverdale, five and a half years old, and his brother Elijah, two and a half -- whose father walked the streets with their photograph, asking: "Have you seen them?"

I have seen them today -- in the love that shines through your tears. All of America has seen the children of Oklahoma City -- and the men and women who died here as well, the wives and husbands; the mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters, and co-workers and friends. And we will never forget them. Nor will we forget you, the families, survivors, and rescue workers. You have inspired us and lifted us up. And so, as we honor those who have been lost, we seek as well to lift you up to live a new day.

In the words of the poet:

"Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild."

I am honored to have been seated today next to Clint Seidl. Clint was only in the second grade when he lost his mother Kathy in the bombing. Kathy worked for the Secret Service for more than ten years. Clint said recently: "I miss my mom a lot. I love my dad half to death. But a dad ain't a mom. She had a real nice face -- and a beautiful smile. That's what I remember her by."

Clint was asked the other day if it was hard to have hope. He said: "I'm dreaming. I want to work for the Secret Service some day, just like my mom." Clint -- you may be a little young to file an application, but I've got some Secret Service agents here with me, they are ready to talk to you after the ceremony.

I appreciate them even more today -- as all of us appreciate those who serve in our self-government.

Clint knows what all of you are proving today -- that in the wake of such deep destruction, the truest course is to not only remember the sacrifice of those who were lost, but to reach for the future that was in their hearts. If we restrain our voices from weeping and our eyes from tears, there is hope for our future.

We have already seen so much hope here, and so much inspiration -- a community that came together in grief, and stayed together in compassion, and commitment, and love, and dedication. I saw it just weeks after the bombing, when Tipper and I met with Federal rescue workers here.

One police captain working the disaster received a bag of candy from a little girl called Melia. When he opened it up, he found, along with the candy, a dollar and fifteen cents -- and a note thanking him for his help.

Then there was the grief counselor who emerged from ten hours of sitting with grieving families to find that he'd left a light on in his car and it would not start. A couple approached him and offered to bring their car around to give him a jump-start. The counselor then recognized the man: less than an hour earlier, he learned he had lost his two little children. The man pulled the photo of his children from his breast pocket and said: "We're all in this together."

Let there be no doubt: for those who would murder our families and our future, there must be swift and certain justice. The perpetrators of this hateful act gained nothing for their evil cause -- but they turned wives into widows, and children into orphans. They brought bitter, unbearable grief to the American family. Mark my words: we will see that justice is done. We will insist on the ultimate penalty for this ultimate crime.

What happened here put this entire nation on notice that the threat of terrorism is indeed real. It is a threat not just from without, but from within. It is a challenge for our national government -- which is why President Clinton and I worked across party lines, with your delegation and others, to win an almost $3 billion increase in funds to fight terrorism in our new budget.

And it is also a challenge for each one of us: to recognize that careless words and bitter emotions breed the worst in the human spirit. We must seek to replace meanness with meaning -- hate with love -- ugliness with grace.

That is what you have sought in raising up this memorial -- to build where others have torn down. To offer strength where others preyed on the vulnerable. To find, in the empty rows of chairs that will cover this ground, a way to refill our souls and our spirits. Your work here is a great testament to our faith and striving. Oklahoma City has come together, once again, to choose hope -- and that is a blessing for our entire nation. We thank you for what you mean to all of us.

Over the past three and a half years, for all who mourn the good and decent Americans lost here, this place has served as their memorial, powerful and spontaneous -- attracting those who care, not only from all parts of our nation, but from all across the world.

And I believe it should continue to comfort, to educate, to illuminate for generations to come. I am proud to announce that a piece of the Murrah Building, provided at my request by the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation, will be placed in the permanent collection of our nation's Smithsonian Institution. This sanctified stone will be in our nation's museum, among our nation's most treasured and honored artifacts. Now, from this day forward, the memory of this tragedy will live in our minds and hearts, and in the memorial we dedicate today.

For I do believe, with all my heart, that there is hope in this place, like flowers that push through winter's barren soil.

As the old hymn suggests:

"Come ye disconsolate, wher-e'er ye languish
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel!
Here bring your wounded hearts,
Here tell your anguish:
Earth has no sorrows that Heaven cannot heal."

Other Vice President Speeches

The 50th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the Korean War

U.S. Military Academy Commencement, West Point

Remarks at Anti-Defamation League

National Prayer Breakfast

Oklahoma City National Memorial Dedication

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Day

Memorial for Senator Albert Gore Senior

Union University Luncheon Honoring Pauline LaFon Gore

Third Annual Farm Journal Conference

Public Service Recognition Week

Harvard Commencement Day, 1994

Remarks at the Funeral for Mayor Tom Bradley

All-American Cities Event

Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day 1998

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E