Podium: We stand for the spirit of freedom

President Bill Clinton, from his tribute to the 12 American embassy workers killed in last week's bombings
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
`

TO THE members of the families here, Secretary Albright, Secretary Cohen, members of the Cabinet, members of Congress, leaders of the Armed Forces, members of the Diplomatic Corps, friends, and we say a special appreciation to the representatives here from Kenya and Tanzania.

Every person here today would pray not to be here. But we could not be anywhere else, for we have come to honour 12 proud sons and daughters who perished half a world away, but never left America behind; who carried with them the love of their families, the respect of their countrymen, and above all, the ideals for which America stands.

They perished in the service of the country for which they gave so much in life. To their families and friends, the rest of your fellow Americans have learned a little bit about your loved ones in the past few days. Of course, we will never know them as you did, or remember them as you will: as a new baby; a proud graduate; a beaming bride or groom; a reassuring voice on the phone from across the ocean; a tired but happy traveller at an airport, bags stuffed with gifts, arms outstretched.

Nothing can bring them back, but nothing can erase the lives they led, the difference they made, the joy they brought. We can only hope that even in grief you can take pride and solace in the gratitude all the rest of us have for the service they gave.

The men and women who serve in our embassies all around this world do hard work that is not always fully appreciated and not even understood by many of their fellow Americans. They protect our interests and promote our values abroad. They are diplomats and doctors and drivers; book- keepers and technicians and military guards. Far from home, they endure hardships, often at great risk.

These 12 Americans came from diverse backgrounds. If you see their pictures, you know they are a portrait of America today and of America's tomorrow. But - as different as they were - each one of them had an adventurous spirit, and a generous soul. Each relished the chance to see the world - and to make it better.

They were a senior diplomat I had the honour to meet twice, and his son, who proudly worked alongside him this summer; a budget officer; a wife and mother who had just spent her vacation caring for her aged parents; a State Department worker who looked forward to being back home with her new grandson; a Foreign Service officer born in India, who became an American citizen and travelled the world with her family for her new country; a Marine Sergeant, the son of very proud parents; an Air Force Sergeant who followed in her own father's footsteps; an epidemiologist, who loved her own children and worked to save Africa's children from disease and death; an embassy administrator, who married a Kenyan and stayed in close touch with her children back in America; a Foreign Service officer and mother of three children, including a baby girl; a Foreign Service member who was an extraordinarily accomplished jazz musician and devoted husband; an Army Sergeant, a veteran of the Gulf War, a husband, a father, who told is own father that if anything ever happened to him, he wanted his ashes to be scattered in the Pacific Ocean off Big Sur because that was where he had met his beloved wife.

What one classmate said to me of his friend today we can say of all of them: they were what America is all about.

We also remember today the Kenyans and Tanzanians who have suffered great loss. We are grateful for your loved ones who worked alongside us in our embassies. And we are grateful for your extraordinary efforts and great pain in the wake of this tragedy. We pray for the speedy recovery of all the injured - Americans and Africans alike.

No matter what it takes, we must find those responsible for these evil acts and see that justice is done. There may be more hard roads ahead, for terrorists target America because we act and stand for peace and democracy; because the spirit of our country is the very spirit of freedom. It is the burden of our history and the bright hope of the world's future.

We must honour the memory of those we mourn today by pressing the cause of freedom and justice for which they lived. We must continue to stand strong for freedom on every continent. America will not retreat from the world and all its promise, nor shrink from our responsibility to stand against terror and with the friends of freedom everywhere. We owe it to those we honour today.

Comments