President Barack Obama paid tribute Tuesday to the memory of Ron Brown, a Democratic trailblazer who broke racial barriers and who Obama says helped make his own presidency possible.
Brown was the first black to serve as chairman of the Democratic Party. He helped Bill Clinton win the presidency in 1992 and Clinton, in turn, made Brown the nation's first black commerce secretary.
Brown was killed nearly 15 years ago when the plane he was a passenger in crashed on April 3, 1996, while he was leading a trade mission to the former Yugoslavia.
At the dedication ceremony for a federal building named for Brown, Obama told a largely Democratic audience of Brown's family, friends and associates _ including Clinton _ that, while he didn't know Brown personally, he knew Brown's "quintessentially American story" and drew inspiration from it.
"And so when you say he'd be proud that I'm president, I think it's fair to say that I'm president in part because of him," Obama said. "He carved out that path for so many of us."
"He lived that American creed that if you work hard enough, if you're willing to put your shoulders to the wheel, there is nothing you cannot do," Obama said.
The Ronald H. Brown United States Mission to the United Nations Building will be the new home for the U.S. delegation to the U.N.