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Clinton Remarks on Secretary of Commercs Ron Brown

April 3, 1996 at 12:00 AM EST

TRANSCRIPT

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Thank you, Dr. Good. Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President and the First Lady and the members of the Cabinet and I wanted to come here to be with the employees of the Commerce Department at this very difficult hour. Hillary and I have just come from Ron Brown’s home, visiting with Alma and Michael and their family and friends who are there. And we wanted to come and spend a few moments with you.

As all of you know, the plane carrying Secretary Brown and his delegation, including a number of your colleagues, business leaders and members of the United States military, went down today near Dubrovnik, Croatia. We do not know for sure what happened there. But I wanted to come here today, as it is almost Passover for American Jews and I know a lot of you will want to be leaving soon, just to have the chance to say a few words to you.

The first thing I want to say is before I left I asked Alma, I said, “Alma, what do you want me to say when I go to the Commerce Department?” She said, tell them Ron was proud of them, that he liked them, that he believed in them, and that he fought for the Commerce Department, and tell them that you’re going to do that now, which I thought was an incredible thing. (Applause.)

I’ve known Ron Brown a long time. I was always amazed at the way he was continually reaching out trying to bridge the differences between people, always trying to get the best out of people, always believing that we could do more than we have done. In a way, this job was sort of ready-made for him at this moment in history, and he loved it very much.

Most of the time, Ron Brown spent using the power of the Commerce Department to find ways to give opportunity to ordinary Americans, to generate jobs for the American economy and build better futures for American citizens. But when we met earlier this week, right before he left for the Balkans, he was so excited because he thought that, along with these business leaders and the other very able people from the Commerce Department on this mission, that they would be able to use the power of the American economy to help the peace take hold in the Balkans, to help people in that troubled place have the kind of decent, honorable and wonderfully ordinary lives that we Americans too often take for granted. And he was so excited by it. If you saw any of the clips on the television that have been showing today about his meetings yesterday, you could see that.

I just want to say, on a very personal note that I hope all Americans today will be grateful for what all the people who were on that plane did — for the military personnel, for the business leaders, who didn’t have to go on that mission, who did it not out of a sense of their own profit, but out of a sense of what they could do to help America bring peace.

To all of the wonderful people in the Commerce Department that were on that plane, some of them very young — one of them who came to our campaign in 1992 thinking the most important thing he could do was to ride a bicycle across the country, asking people to vote for the Vice President and me, wound up a trusted employee at the Commerce Department.

To all of their loved ones and their families, their friends, I want to say I am very grateful for their lives and their service.

I also want to say just one last thing about Ron Brown. He was one of the best advisors and ablest people I ever knew. And he was very, very good at everything he ever did. Whether he was the Commerce Secretary or a civil rights leader or something else, he was always out there just giving it his all. And he always believed that his mission in life was to put people’s dreams within their reach if they were willing to work for it and believe in themselves.

When we were over at his home a few moments ago, Alexis Herman, who, as many of you know, used to work with Ron at the Democratic Committee and they’ve been friends a long time, told me that his favorite Scripture verse was that wonderful verse from Isaiah: They who wait upon the Lord shall have their strength renewed. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and faint not.

Well, Ron Brown walked and ran and flew through life. And he was a magnificent life force. And those of us who loved him will always be grateful for his friendship and his warmth.

But every American should be grateful that at a very difficult moment in our nation’s history, he made this Commerce Department what it was meant to be — an instrument for realizing the potential of every American. For all of you who played a role in that, I ask for your prayers for Secretary Brown and his family, for your colleagues and their families, for the business leaders and their families, and for our beloved military officers and their families. And I ask you always, always to be fiercely proud for what you have done and very grateful for the opportunity to have done it.

I’d like to ask know that we bow for a moment of silence.

Amen. Thank you.