THE WHITE HOUSE
July 10, 2001
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL CEREMONY HONORING JOHN CARDINAL O'CONNOR
St. Patrick's Cathedral
New York, New York
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Your Eminence; Governor
Pataki and Mrs. Pataki; Mayor Giuliani. I want to thank Chuck Schumer and Vito
Fossella for such beautiful words. Senator Clinton. Distinguished members of the
United States Congress. Members of my Cabinet. Mary Ward. Dorothy Hamilton and
members of the O'Connor family. Reverend Ogilvie and Father Coughlin. Leaders of
the Catholic Church. Maureen O'Flynn, thank you for sharing your angelic voice
with us today. (Applause.) My fellow Americans.
Thank you for the welcome to your city and for the seat of this
archdiocese. I especially want to thank the police and fire departments for the
presentation of the colors, and their service to this community. (Applause.)
John Cardinal O'Connor was fond of recalling the greeting he received
when visiting the Vatican. Pope John Paul II would meet him with these words:
"How is the Archbishop of the capital of the world?" For me, on my first visit
as President, it's a pleasure, Mr. Mayor, to be in the capital of the world.
This is a happier occasion than the day when we said our good-byes at a
solemn Mass in a mourning city. It takes a lot to bring all of New York to a
pause. But that's what happened when the earthly remains of John Cardinal
O'Connor were laid to rest in this beautiful cathedral.
From the distance of a year, his character and his contributions only
seem larger. We remember a life of good works, strong faith, and great
For many here today, those memories are still vivid and very personal.
For parishioners, it may be the memory of an imposing figure who stood here so
many times, looking every inch a cardinal -- fearing, it seemed, nothing, and
having an opinion, it seemed, on everything.
For thousands of veterans, it's the memory of a chaplain who counseled
them, heard their confessions, and attained the rank of admiral. For the working
men and women, it will be the memory of an advocate, someone who rose to great
prominence, but remained the proud son of a union man who honored hard work.
The poor and immigrants of this city will always remember their staunch
friend who defended their interests and understood their struggles. Many
families remember the church leader who came to AIDS patients with care and
Parents here and in Scranton will remember the priest who gave so much
time and special care to boys and girls with disabilities. And the world will
remember the gallant defender of children and their vulnerability, innocence,
and their right to be born. (Applause.)
Many decades from now, these living memories of the man will begin to
pass. Fewer and fewer will have known the sound of his voice, the largeness of
his presence, the sting of his rebuke, his marvelous sense of humor, or the
breadth of his compassion. But future generations will know at least this about
the 11th leader of the archdiocese: He was a man who left a mark on his time. A
moral leader not only in title, but in truth. A defender of the faith, the very
kind who have kept the faith alive for two millennia. A great man in a high
place. And also for 80 years on this Earth, a good person, a cheerful giver and
a much loved soul.
Posterity will know this: The Congress of the United States, in respect
and gratitude, directed that a gold medal be struck bearing Cardinal O'Connor's
name and image. And on this day, on behalf of the American people, I'm honored
to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the family and to the successor of
John Cardinal O'Connor.
God bless America.