Remarks of the President at World War II Memorial Groundbreaking Ceremony (11/11/00)
                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
                For Immediate Release    November 11, 2000

                            REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                            AT WORLD WAR II MEMORIAL
                            GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY

                                 National Mall
                                             Washington. D.C.

2:22 P.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Secretary Cohen, thank you for
your service.  To the other members of the Cabinet and the administration,
I thank you.  General Woerner, thank you for your lifetime of service and
your leadership of our Battlefield Monuments Commission.  Ambassador
Williams, thank you, and all the members of the World War II Memorial
Committee.  Archbishop Hannon, thank you for your prayers and your
leadership in the war.

     And to Captain Luther Smith of the Tuskegee Airmen -- he and told you
his story, but I can't help noting that in telling you his story he was
rather like a lot of World War II veterans, he left out a few things.  He
left out the Distinguished Flying Cross, seven air medals, the Purple
Heart, and a POW medal.  Like many of our soldiers in World War II, his
bravery went unmentioned, but we are, nonetheless, profoundly grateful for
it.  (Applause.)

     I'd like to thank Fred Smith, my friend of many years, for stepping up
and helping to raise all this money.  And also, my friend, Tom Hanks, who
played Captain John Miller in "Saving Private Ryan," and is now making sure
that America never forgets all the Private Ryans.  We are grateful for him,
as well.  (Applause.)

     I thank Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, who recognized the vision of her
constituent, Roger Durbin, introduced this legislation and has fought for
it ever since.  I can tell you as someone who has dealt with her for eight
years, there is no more determined person in the United States Congress.  I
am only amazed that this memorial was not built in 1988, since she got
behind it.  Thank you, Marcy Kaptur, for what you are doing. (Applause.)

     I thank the members of Congress who are here.  Senator Thurmond once
told me that he was the oldest man who took a glider into Normandy.  I
don't know what that means, 56 years later, but I'm grateful for all of the
members of Congress, beginning with Senator Thurmond and all the others who
are here, who never stopped serving their country.

     But most of all, I want to say a thank-you to Bob Dole, and to
Elizabeth for their service to America.  (Applause.)  As my tenure as
President draws to a close, I have had, as you might imagine, an up and
down relationship with Senator Dole.  But I liked even the bad days.  I
always admired him.  I was always profoundly grateful for his courage and
heroism in war and 50 years of service in peace.  After a rich and long
life, he could well have done something else with his time in these last
few years, but he has passionately worked for this day.  And I am
profoundly grateful.  (Applause.)

     I also want to thank the men and women and boys and girls all across
our country who participated in this fundraising drive, taking this
memorial from dream to reality.  Their stories are eloquent testimony to
its meaning.  As Senator Dole and I were sitting up here watching the
program unfold today, he told me an amazing story.  He said, one day a man
from eastern Pennsylvania called our office.  He was a 73-year-old Armenian
American, named Sarcus Secopias (phonetic).  And he said, I'd like to make
a contribution to this memorial; where do I mail my check?  So he was given
the address, and shortly after, this man's -- who was grateful for the
opportunities America has given him -- check arrived in the office -- a
check for $1 million.  (Applause.)

     But there were all the other checks, as well, amounting to $140
million in private contributions.  There were contributions from those
still too young to serve; indeed, far too young to remember the war.  More
than 1,100 schools across our nation have raised money for the memorial by
collecting cans, holding bake sales, putting on dances.

     Let me just tell you about one of them, Milwaukee High School in
Milwaukee, Oregon.  Five years ago, a teacher named Ken Buckles wanted to
pay tribute to the World War II veterans.  He and his students searched out
local veterans and invited them to school for a living history day.
Earlier this week, Living History Day 2000 honored more than 3,000
veterans, with a recreated USO show that filled the pro basketball arena.
Last year's event raised $10,000 for the memorial, and students think that
this year they'll raise even more.

     Now, what makes those kids fund-raise and organize and practice for
weeks on end?  Many have grandparents and other relatives who fought in the
war.  But there must be more to it than that.  They learned from their
families and teachers that the good life they enjoy as Americans was made
possible by the sacrifices of others more than a half-century ago.  And
maybe most important, they want us to know something positive about their
own generation, as well, and their desire to stand for something greater
than themselves.

     They didn't have the money to fly out here today, but let's all of us
send a loud thank-you to the kids at Milwaukee High School and their
teacher, Ken Buckles, and all the other young people who have supported
this cause.  (Applause.)

     The ground we break today is not only a timeless tribute to the
bravery and honor of one generation, but a challenge to every generation
that follows.  This memorial is built not only for the children whose
grandparents served in the war, but for the children who will visit this
place a century from now, asking questions about America's great victory
for freedom.

     With this memorial we secure the memory of 16 million Americans, men
and women who took up arms in the greatest struggle humanity has ever
known.  We hallow the ground for more than 400,000 who never came home.  We
acknowledge a debt that can never be repaid.

     We acknowledge, as well, the men and women and children of the
homefront, who tended the factories and nourished the faith that made
victory possible; remember those who fought faithfully and bravely for
freedom, even as their own full humanity was under assault -- African
Americans who had to fight for the right to fight for our country; Japanese
Americans who served bravely under a cloud of unjust suspicion; Native
American code talkers who helped to win the war in the Pacific; women who
took on new roles in the military and at home -- remember how, in the heat
of battle, and the necessity of the moment, all of these folks moved closer
to being simply Americans.

     And we remember how after World War II those who won the war on
foreign battlefields dug deep and gave even more to win the peace here at
home, to give us a new era of prosperity, to lay the foundation for a new
global society and economy, by turning old adversaries into new allies, by
launching a movement for social justice that still lifts millions of
Americans into dignity and opportunity.

     I would like to say once more before I go to the veterans here today
what I said in Normandy in 1994.  Because of you, my generation and those
who have followed live in a time of unequaled peace and prosperity.  We are
the children of your sacrifice, and we thank you forever.  (Applause.)

     But now, as then, progress is not inevitable, it requires eternal
vigilance and sacrifice.  Earlier today, at the Veterans Day ceremony at
Arlington National Cemetery, we paid tribute to the fallen heroes of the
United States Ship Cole, three of whom have recently been buried at
Arlington.  The Captain of the ship and 20 of the crew members were there
today.  We honor them.

     Next week I will go to Vietnam, to honor the men and women America
lost there, to stand with those still seeking a full accounting of the
missing.  But at the same time, I want to give support to Vietnamese and
Americans who are working together to build a better future in Vietnam,
under the leadership of former Congressman and former Vietnam POW Pete
Peterson, who has reminded us that we can do nothing about the past, but we
can always change the future.  That's what all of you did after the war,
with Germans, Italians and Japanese.  You built the world we love and enjoy

     The wisdom this monument will give us is to learn from the past and
look to the future.  May the light of freedom that will stand at the center
of this memorial inspire every person who sees it to keep the flame of
freedom forever burning in the eyes of our children, and to keep the memory
of the greatest generation warm in the hearts of every new generation of

     Thank you and God bless America.  (Applause.)

END  2:35 P.M. EST

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