Good morning. For millions of Americans this is an especially joyous time of year. All across our country, families come together to celebrate Easter or Passover; parents reunited with their children, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends joining in these celebrations of faith and renewal.
Yesterday in Oklahoma City, Hillary and I gathered with a remarkable American community to remember its loss and mark its passage from pain to hope. Nearly a year has passed since evil struck our heartland, killing 168 Americans, injuring many more, touching all of us. Yet from the moments terror's shadow darkened their lives, the people of Oklahoma City began their common effort to work together to rebuild their lives, their community, and their future.
The people of Oklahoma City have proved to the Nation that while the American spirit can be terribly tested, it cannot be defeated. They have shown our children that even in the wake of the most terrible tragedy, goodness can prevail.
The men, women, and children who fell beneath the rubble of the Murrah Federal Building were not cut down in a great battle. They were just ordinary Americans, simple soldiers of the everyday, going to work, going to play, taking on their responsibilities as parents and providers and citizens.
Many of them were Government workers, laboring every day to help millions of their fellow citizens make the most of their own lives: caseworkers seeing to it that senior citizens received their Social Security; law enforcement officers keeping our streets safe, our schools free from drugs; military recruiters helping to keep our country strong. They're the people who make America work. They're what we mean when we speak of Government of, by, and for the people.
The work of Government employees isn't usually very glamorous, and it can be grindingly difficult. And as the tragic loss of Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and his colleagues just a few days ago reminds us, sometimes it can also be very dangerous. Later today the Vice President and I will make a sad journey to an Air Force base in Dover, Delaware. There, on the eve of Easter, we will be with the families of Ron Brown and his delegation as their loved ones make a final journey home.
Ron Brown was a dear friend of mine, a friend to American businesses and American workers everywhere, who did more to create good jobs by opening new markets to our products and services than anybody who ever held his position. He was also a friend to millions of people around the world because of his relentless determination to bridge the false divisions that keep us apart here at home and abroad.
When he became Commerce Secretary, I asked him to make that Department a powerhouse for American jobs and opportunity and an instrument for promoting peace and freedom and democracy around the world. Well, that's exactly what he did. Every minute of every day was dedicated to creating jobs for American workers and opportunities for our companies. But he was also in the Balkans to channel the energy of the American economy, once again the strongest in the world, into a powerful force for peace and renewal.
With him were dedicated Government workers from the Commerce Department and other agencies. Some of them were very young. With him were members of our United States military who were serving their country and getting the mission where it was supposed to go. And with him were some of our finest business leaders, all of them trying to help people rebuild their lives and their land so that the hard-won peace in Bosnia would grow strong and take on a life and logic of its own, overcoming the past of ethnic hatred and division. These Americans literally gave their lives bringing to others the blessings of a normal life that too often we take here for granted.
So this weekend, as you enjoy the blessings of family and community and friendship, please say a prayer for the families and friends of Ron Brown and his colleagues and for the family and friends of the good, hard-working Americans who were stolen from us in Oklahoma City one year ago and for those who survive but still have challenges to face.
Sometimes it takes a terrible tragedy to illuminate a basic truth. In a democracy, government is not "them" versus "us." We are all "us." We are all in it together. Government is our neighbors and friends helping others pursue the dreams we all share, to live in peace, provide for ourselves and our loved ones, give our children a chance for an even better life.
So in this season of reflection and rebirth, let us follow their example and rededicate ourselves, each in our own way, to the welfare of our beloved country and our fellow citizens. That's the best way to carry on the legacy of those who give their lives in the service of our country.
Thanks for listening.