Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
Public Safety Officer Medals of Valor Award Ceremony
February 14, 2003
(Note: The Attorney General Often Deviates From Prepared Remarks)
Good afternoon. It is a pleasure and an honor to be with all of you today. Every day, all across this great nation, men and women put their own lives at risk to make our lives and our communities safer. These brave public safety officers face down gun-wielding criminals, fight raging fires, rescue victims from swollen rivers, and – in today’s new world – are a vital part of our mission to prevent terrorism.
Every day, we call upon public safety officers to respond quickly to emergencies and to protect our families, our neighbors, and our property. Every day, public safety officers across America answer that call, acting with courage, determination, and valor. Every day, public safety officers are heroes. This day, it is my privilege to recognize their bravery, dedication to duty, and selfless commitment to the welfare of their fellow citizens.
On May 30, 2001, President Bush signed into law the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act. This law authorizes, and I quote, “. . . after September 1, 2001, the President of the United States may award and present, in the name of Congress, a Medal of Valor . . . to a public safety officer . . . for extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty. The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor shall be the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer.”
Today’s recipients of the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor were selected by an eleven-member, bipartisan Medal of Valor Review Board. Board members were appointed by the President of the United States, the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and the Minority Leader of the House. All of the Board Members are able to join us here today, and I would like to recognize them:
• Michael Branham, Board Chairman
• Sheriff Tim Bivins
• Sheriff Oliver “Glenn” Boyer
• Police Chief David Demag
• Fire Chief Richard “Smokey” Dyer
• His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan
• Fire Chief Richard Gasaway
• Police Chief Jimmy Houston
• William Nolan, Fraternal Order of Police
• Thomas Scotto, National Association of Police Organizations
Finally, let me mention Steve Young, the former President of the Fraternal Order of Police, who lost his valiant fight with cancer on January 9. Steve committed his life to protecting his community and supporting law enforcement officers across our nation. Steve provided the Department of Justice with invaluable advice and helped me to see through the lens of local law enforcement officers. We all miss him greatly.
The Review Board had the difficult task of reviewing applications, selecting candidates, and forwarding their recommendations. I thank each of you for your time, your hard work, and your commitment to public safety in the United States.
Today, we come together to recognize the outstanding valor of 10 individuals, and to honor each of them with the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor.
What is amazing to me is that these are not Hollywood stories of heroism, but are real stories of every-day Americans taking extraordinary risks to save the lives of others. Thank you all for your tremendous courage. Your actions truly demonstrate the kind of selfless service to others that Saint Ignatius of Loyola called for in his Prayer for Generosity nearly four and a half centuries ago:
“To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not to heed the wounds;
To toil and not to seek for rest;
To labor and not ask for any reward.”
Thank you for answering the call to public service, for committing yourselves to protecting your communities, and for risking your lives daily to make our citizens safe. I commend you for your sacrifice, your service, and your valor.
Now, I have the privilege of presenting another individual who lives out the prayer of St. Ignatius – an individual whose sacrifice, dedication, and service to American are both invaluable and immeasurable. I have the honor of serving every day with this exceptional leader, and sharing with him the responsibility of ensuring that freedom flourishes in a safe America. There is no individual who gives greater measure in defense of America and American values than he. It is my distinct honor to introduce to you the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney.