Thank you, Laurie, for your kind words and, more importantly, for your leadership of the Office of Justice Programs and your strong support for public safety officers across the country.
It’s a privilege to join with you and Vice President Biden – and so many proud colleagues, friends, and family members – in recognizing the outstanding work, and inspiring contributions, of the fourteen public servants we’ve gathered to honor. I’m especially grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge and to personally thank each one of you – for the example you’ve set, the courage you’ve shown, and the difference you have made.
As Laurie noted, the Medal of Valor is the highest honor awarded to public safety officers in the country. And today’s recipients are part of a select group.
Although you work alongside some of the nation’s most talented and most effective public servants – police officers and firefighters; sheriffs and EMTs; rescue squads and highway patrols – each one of you has stood out. You’ve shown both fearlessness and selflessness. And you’ve distinguished yourselves through unwavering determination and a willingness to risk your own life to save others.
You’ve braved raging fires and storms, and battled armed and dangerous criminals. You’ve created life-saving rescue and escape plans, and sustained life-threatening wounds. Amid explosions and gunshots, you’ve dragged your colleagues to safety.
One of today’s awardees dipped the helicopter he was piloting into treacherous waters to save drowning hurricane victims. Another jumped over a six-foot, barbed-wire fence to save an officer he’d never met. And all of you have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
The wife of a police officer who was rescued by one of the firefighters we honor today once asked, “How do you thank somebody for giving your husband his life and keeping your family a family?” Today, we try.
Of course, this award can not capture the full measure of our gratitude. And it can not heal the wounds of seeing colleagues suffer or, in some cases, make the ultimate sacrifice. But I hope that, for today’s awardees, the Medal of Valor will serve as a reminder that your work strengthens our nation’s finest traditions of public service and that the American people are, and always will be, in your debt.
Let me also say – on behalf of our nation’s Department of Justice – that it's a privilege to count you all as partners. Your work is at the core of the Department’s #1 mission: to protect the safety of the American people. You are on the front lines of this effort. And I assure you that – in addition to my deep appreciation – you also have, deserve, and can continue to expect my full support.
Now, even as we celebrate the contributions that define your work and have distinguished your careers, we must also be mindful of the challenges that remain before us. The threats we face are real. They are urgent. And they are increasingly complex. But we will overcome them. And I believe the very skill and commitment we honor today will drive our future success.
Because of you and your colleagues, I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish in the days ahead. And I’m proud of each one of you.
Congratulations, and thank you all.
And, now, I’d like to introduce a public servant whose record of leadership on behalf of public safety officers is unparalleled. He authored the largest – and one of the most important – crime bills in American history, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. And he has spent a lifetime supporting and advancing the work of public safety officers of every stripe. No one has done more.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States – Joe Biden.