Thank you, Mary Lou , for those kind words; for your outstanding leadership of the Office of Justice Programs; and for your dedication to supporting public safety officers throughout the nation. It’s a pleasure to be with you today, and a privilege to join Vice President Biden and so many distinguished public servants – including Representative Cartwright; Director of the Bureau of Prisons Charles Samuels; Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Todd Jones; and Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Denise O’Donnell – in paying tribute to this year’s recipients of the Medal of Valor.
This is an extraordinary occasion. I am grateful for the opportunity to acknowledge, and personally thank, each of our honorees – for their service to the American people; for their bravery in the face of grave dangers; and for all that they’ve sacrificed in the name of public and community safety.
I’d like to extend a special welcome to the colleagues, friends, invited guests, and proud family members who have traveled from across the country to salute these remarkable men and women. I’d like to thank you for all you’ve done to support those we’ve gathered to honor and to make their achievements possible. It’s a privilege to share this moment with you as we celebrate the work of these inspiring public servants, and present them with one of our nation’s most prestigious recognitions.
Today’s award recipients have distinguished themselves by going above and beyond the call of duty. And they now join the ranks of a select group of police officers and firefighters; sheriffs and EMTs; rescue squad members and highway patrolmen – who have earned this accolade, and who elevate America’s finest traditions of public service every day.
From our biggest cities to our smallest towns, the people we honor today stand on the front lines of the struggle against crime, terrorism, and threats to our most vulnerable communities.
These Medal of Valor recipients have fearlessly responded to desperate cries for help and have courageously risked their own lives to secure innocent victims, protect fellow officers, and end deadly assaults. Some entered a burning building – without hesitation and without the protection of a fire hose – to rescue an infant trapped inside. Another took quick and decisive action to subdue an armed and violent inmate plotting an escape from prison. And one of our awardees caught fire and braved temperatures over 1,000 degrees while carrying a victim to safety.
Through these selfless acts – and through the service you render to your communities and fellow citizens every day – each of you has earned the deepest thanks of a grateful nation. And all of you have incurred a debt of gratitude that this country can only hope to repay.
While no words can fully capture the courage that you have demonstrated, I believe you now join a cadre of heroes whose actions will always be remembered. And it is my sincere hope that your Medal of Valor will stand as a timeless tribute to your achievements – and a symbol of the tradition of excellence you each exemplify.
Of course, even as we celebrate the conduct – and the contributions – that define this remarkable group of public safety officers, we must be mindful of the fact that serious challenges – and urgent threats – remain before us. Just as this ceremony provides a chance to lift up the stories of our heroes, it also reminds us just how difficult and demanding your jobs can be. But that’s why, as I look around this crowd, I cannot help but feel confident about where your efforts will lead us from here.
Once again, on behalf of my colleagues across the Department of Justice: thank you for all that you do. I am proud to count you as partners in the work that remains our shared responsibility. And I congratulate you on this well-deserved honor.
Now, it is my privilege to introduce one of our country’s most principled leaders, a tireless advocate for public safety officers everywhere, and a very good friend whose lifelong service and commitment to our nation are an inspiration to us all.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Vice President of the United States – Joe Biden.