Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Memorial Service for Bob Squier

February 04, 2000

Prudy; to the members of your family; to all of us who were friends of Bob Squier. The Scripture summons us, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee." Today we celebrate a man who did not neglect his gift but instead shared it.

We have heard it in the stories of his sons, his partner, his friends, and they have caused us all to flood our minds and hearts with memories of Bob Squier's passion for life, for his family, his work, for politics. Vice President Gore and I, in particular, are the beneficiaries of that passion and of his abundant American optimism.

As has already been said, no matter how dark the night, Bob was always sure the Sun would come up in the morning, and if it didn't, he would still find a way to get a tan. [Laughter] This sort of optimism was in rather short supply right after the elections in 1994, and most people thought that there were better investments in American politics than the reelection of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Not Bob Squier. He saw it as sort of a minor challenge. He was there for us, and but for him, we might not be here today. There is something to be said for boundless optimism.

I think we ought to acknowledge, as has already been done, that this was a man whose passion for politics was part of a kaleidoscopic view of life and a wide range of interests. In addition to his documentaries about our great authors, he was also a pioneer in music television: one of the youngest producers of the Boston Pops on PBS, the executive producer of the first live global satellite TV show featuring the Beatles. He even talked about working years ago with the Rolling Stones, which probably makes him the only person in his line of work in the entire world who could say that he worked with everyone from Keith Richards to Ann Richards. [Laughter]

Bob Squier was many things. They have all been described today: a brilliant strategist, incisive commentator, trusted adviser, loyal friend. Above all, though, I think he was a storyteller. He knew how to tell a story, and he knew how to see the story that was being told right before our eyes.

He was very proud of his award-winning documentaries. He saw in the lives of Faulkner, Melville, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald, and in their work, the story of America, just as surely as he saw it in the lives and campaigns of all of us in this hallowed cathedral today with whom he worked. He dug deep into their lives to tell us the story.

For all the politicians here who ever agonized through one more take of a television ad, one more instruction about how this townhall meeting had to be dealt with, we're not surprised at the details of his attention to his documentaries. He took F. Scott Fitzgerald's only daughter back to places she knew as a child and then interviewed her about her father. He took Robert Penn Warren to Shiloh to talk about Melville's Civil War poem about that battle. He interviewed Hemingway's son Jack as he cast flies in an Idaho trout stream. He even went to Havana and filmed in a boat piloted by Hemingway's former captain, who provided the inspiration for "The Old Man and the Sea."

That's the way he did his politics. It was never about the manipulation of words and images to put something over on the American people. It was always about finding the story and trusting the people to get it right.

He told our story: a couple of farmers in a field holding a sign that said "Hope"; a widow placing a flag on a veteran's grave on a lonely hillside; a worker filled with the pride that comes from the dignity of a job; and as has been mentioned, the light in little Emma's eyes. He used them all to tell our story. Nobody did it better. He made policy understandable, politics exciting, and politicians human. He made the camera disappear.

Bob worked in a profession with one of the shortest half-lives in the world. But to paraphrase one of his heroes, William Faulkner, here in Washington he did not just endure; he prevailed, for over 30 years, not just by putting a notch in the campaign victory belt but putting into office candidates he knew shared his convictions and would fight his fights.

I have to say this on behalf of all of the elected and former elected officials here. There is one thing we all especially found endearing about Bob Squier. He actually liked politicians. [Laughter] And he wasn't ashamed to admit it, even in this age when sort of sanctimonious disapproval of us is the only politically correct position. He saw people in politics as basically good people who struggled to reconcile personal conviction and popular opinion into a combined force that would lift our Nation to higher grounds.

Bob Squier's work lives on through all of us he lifted, through countless others he mentored and trained along the way. And so, the story of this great storyteller's life in a sense is still being written and will be for a long time to come.

In years to come, students of American politics will study Bob Squier's campaigns, Bob Squier's commercials, Bob Squier's commentaries. Students of our literature will study Bob Squier's documentary films. Those of us who shared this all-too-brief earthly journey with him, we'll be grateful for all that. But I suspect even more, we'll remember a dashing and handsome man with a killer smile, an acid wit, and goodness at the core, a goodness that made even his adversaries like him.

We'll remember that behind the smile visible in his eyes was a steel will, a strong spirit, and a great heart that made our Nation better, because it gave him the strength to nurture the gift that was in him and to share it with us.

Well, Bob, we're giving you a good sendoff today, but not nearly as good as what you gave us. The last campaign is over. The polls have closed. The votes are counted. And you won— big time. Now you're in a place with no talk shows and no term limits. But your spirit will soar forever. Godspeed.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. at the National Cathedral. In his remarks, he referred to Mr. Squier's widow, Prudence Bergman, sons Mark R. Squier and Robert M. Squier, and granddaughter Emma; William Knapp, partner, Squier, Knapp & Dunn Communications; musician Keith Richards; and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Memorial Service for Bob Squier Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives