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Clinton Attends Aspin Memorial

June 13, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton gathered with friends and family of former Defense Secretary Les Aspin at a memorial service Tuesday to share fond memories of a man the president called ``iconoclastic in the best sense.″

``That is a great benefit now as we go through this period of transition from the Cold War into a new and exciting but still troubling world,″ Clinton said. ``He was always questioning the conventional wisdom and always refusing to be bound by it.″

The president said Aspin, who died May 21, played a crucial role as defense secretary in reshaping the armed forces to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Many of Aspin’s friends and colleagues appeared at the memorial service, including Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Several people spoke between hymns at the service, which was held at St. John’s Church, across Lafayette Square from the White House. The somber atmosphere was punctuated with some humorous anecdotes.

``I always identified with Les Aspin,″ Clinton said. ``We were policy wonks. We sometimes worried more about our workloads than our waistlines. And on occasion we forgot that in this complicated world how things appear is sometimes almost as important as how things are.″

Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described Aspin as a diligent worker who rigorously pursued the best possible policy.

``Each decision was always made with the nation in mind. It may not have always been popular, but it was always what he saw as the best decision for the nation,″ Shalikashvili said. ``And in a way he was a man who nearly all of his adult life worked with the tools of war but always in the name of peace.″

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