Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at the Congressional Tribute Honoring Officer Jacob J. Chestnut and Detective John M. Gibson

July 28, 1998

To the Chestnut and Gibson families and my fellow Americans:

The Bible defines a good life thusly: "To love justice, to do mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." Officer J.J. Chestnut and Detective John Gibson loved justice. The story of what they did here on Friday in the line of duty is already a legend. It is fitting that we gather here to honor these two American heroes, here in this hallowed chamber that has known so many heroes, in this Capitol they gave their lives to defend.

And we thank their families for enduring the pain and extra burden of joining us here today. For they remind us that what makes our democracy strong is not only what Congress may enact or a President may achieve; even more, it is the countless individual citizens who live our ideals out every day, the innumerable acts of heroism that go unnoticed, and especially, it is the quiet courage and uncommon bravery of Americans like J.J. Chestnut and John Gibson and, indeed, every one of the 81 police officers who just this year have given their lives to ensure our domestic tranquility.

John Gibson and J.J. Chestnut also did mercy in giving their lives to save the lives of their fellow citizens. We honor them today, and in so doing, we honor also the hundreds of thousands of other officers, including all of their comrades, who stand ready every day to do the same. They make it seem so ordinary, so expected, asking for no awards or acknowledgment, that most of us do not always appreciate—indeed, most of the time we do not even see—their daily sacrifice. Until crisis reveals their courage, we do not see how truly special they are. And so they walked humbly.

To the Gibsons, to Lyn, Kristen, Jack, and Danny; to the Chestnuts, Wenling, Joseph, Janece, Janet, Karen, and William; to the parents, the brothers, the siblings, the friends here, you always knew that John and J.J. were special. Now the whole world knows as well.

Today we mourn their loss, and we celebrate their lives. Our words are such poor replacements for the joys of family and friends, the turning of the seasons, the rhythms of normal life that should rightfully have been theirs. But we offer them to you from a grateful Nation, profoundly grateful that in doing their duty, they saved lives; they consecrated this house of freedom; and they fulfilled our Lord's definition of a good life. They loved justice. They did mercy. Now and forever, they walk humbly with their God.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:30 p.m. in the United States Capitol Rotunda. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Vice President Al Gore. Officer Chestnut and Detective Gibson died as a result of gunshot wounds suffered during an attack at the Capitol on July 24.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Congressional Tribute Honoring Officer Jacob J. Chestnut and Detective John M. Gibson Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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