(As Prepared for Delivery)
Tuesday, July 28, 1998
Today, we honor two watchmen who guarded not just a building, but an ideal -- men who lived and labored not only to keep our democracy free from harm, but to keep it free and open to all our people.
So many times, as I have walked through this Rotunda, I have been accompanied and guarded by Detective Gibson and the protective detail on which he served. So many times, as I walked through this building, I have seen Officer Chestnut, standing proudly at his post.
And I know I am not alone among those here today in thinking: how fragile is the safety and security we take for granted; how thin the blue line these brave men and women have drawn for us -- here in the Capitol, and in every American community.
Soon two new names will be inscribed on the Law Enforcement Memorial less than a mile from here. But future generations will owe these men a debt that will outlast any monument. As much as any soldier who ever landed on a beach, last week the gatekeepers of our Capitol became the front-line guardians of our freedom. In defending each citizen's right to cross through that doorway in safety, they were defending democracy itself.
It is written in the scripture that "whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
I believe it is men like John Gibson and J.J. Chestnut who are, in a sense, the ministers of our democracy -- and who are, by virtue of their extraordinary sacrifice, honored today as chief among us.
They remind us that for all those who suffer and die for righteousness' sake -- theirs is the kingdom of God.
Let me say to the Gibson and Chestnut families: we know nothing can lift your loss. We do not forget that for you, each day forward, the sacrifice will go on. But I hope there is comfort -- and I know there is pride and truth -- in the poet's words:
"How sleep the brave who sink to rest; by all their country's wishes blest."
God bless you -- and God bless America.