Remarks at the Annual Meeting of the National League of
George Brooks, Ann Griffiths, and members of the board, and family members: For me there's no group more special than the National League of Families, and I'm glad to be here to speak to you at your annual meeting. You are a remarkable group that has bonded together into an extended family that is both effective and compassionate. Some of your beloved family members are missing. We want to know their fate, and we yearn for them to come home. And we will continue to work for their return.
a wound that does not close with the passing of time. In 1961 the first
American was listed as missing in action in
But the National League of Families changed that. You pulled together. You spoke with a unified and unflagging voice. And you were heard. When we began together, there was an unresponsive bureaucracy without clear direction. There are now over 100 people in Defense, State, and the intelligence agencies working full-time to find your loved ones and bring you answers. That's a change that we made together, and that's how it must stay until your questions are answered. You stood alone far too long. That must never happen again.
Your cause has aroused a nation. Your responsible leadership has resisted simplistic solutions, sought facts, and moved this issue forward. For this you deserve great credit. And I particularly want to recognize your dedicated board chairman, George Brooks, and your hard-working and very talented executive director, Ann Griffiths.
devotion of each family member and your long-term commitment have
sent a message that has become embedded in the consciousness of our country. A
bipartisan group in Congress now supports our efforts. The POW - MIA flag flies
over State capitals, over veterans' posts, in parades in every city and town
decade ago we were told that after so much time had passed there was little
chance any remains could be recovered. And there have always been those rushing
to say that it was time to forget. Well, to those in a hurry to forget, your
love for your fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons stands in the way. Those
who want to close the door on the true history of the Vietnam war, to escape accountability and leave important questions
unanswered -- they would close the book on those Americans still missing. Well,
this is more than a betrayal of the men. It's more than a breach of faith with
their families and their loved ones. It's a denial of the truth. And to them I
you, the families of MIA's and POW's unaccounted for, the Vietnam war is not over and will not end. For you, the only way we
can ``give peace a chance'' is to give you the truth, the fullest possible
accounting of the fate of your loved ones. Who can still question that
are two things that your country must do for you. First, it must obtain the
fullest possible accounting. And second, it must draw the true lessons of
thanks to your work, and as part of your legacy, future generations of American
servicemen will be assured that they will never be forgotten by their
countrymen. And one of the most moving things is all the children from POW -
MIA families who have chosen to wear their country's uniform. When I was
Governor of California, at a meeting with what was the forerunner of your
organization, I was standing and meeting with these people. And I felt a tug at
my pantleg, and I looked down. A 3-year-old boy just
looked up and said, ``Will you bring my daddy home?'' Two months ago, that boy,
that brave young man, Todd Hanson, graduated from the
as you gather for your 19th annual meeting, the Vietnamese Government has once
again raised our hopes for a breakthrough. I welcome their pledge to my special
emissary, General Vessey, to accelerate their work on
those cases that he has discussed with them. We look forward to its
fulfillment. We've witnessed promises made in the past by
The Governments of Indochina know that resolution of this issue is critical to any future relationship, that we will not tire of this quest, and that the longer this wound persists, the more likely that it will be permanent. And we will not weaken in our resolve to resist attempts to use this humanitarian issue for political gain.
of relations with
the Lao Government, our joint search activities have been marked by a sincere
effort to provide answers. We hope this can be sustained and expanded, for many
unanswered questions remain. The Government in
During the remainder of our administration these efforts will continue on a priority basis. We must call upon the next administration to do the same. In preparation for transition, I'm directing a comprehensive study on the POW - MIA issue, detailing our efforts, accomplishments, and what remains to be done. We must achieve the fullest possible accounting. The study will be given to you, the families, the Congress, and the American people.
I was Governor of California, a number of families gave me their POW - MIA
bracelets. I brought those bracelets with me when I came to
have mentioned some of the experiences back when I was Governor, and it was the
period then when the POW's, who had known long years of imprisonment, were
finally released and came home. And I appealed to
Two men met in front of us in our living room, heard each other's names, and threw their arms around each other. They were the best and closest of friends. They knew every detail of each other's family. They were seeing each other face-to-face for the first time in their lives. All that friendship in those terrible days of imprisonment had been built on their tapping in the code, the prisoner's code, on the walls. They had never seen each other until they met in our living room.
There was story after story of that kind that revealed the heroism of those Americans. It was so inspiring. And they told the stories without bitterness, just as you would relate any adventure. And I think maybe this is where Nancy and I fell in love with all of them and with all of those who remain, yet to return to their homeland.
You are all in my prayers. And I thank you, and God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke at in the Grand Ballroom at the J.W. Marriott Hotel.