Remarks as prepared for delivery
To Pastor [Mike] Haman and the members of Healing Place Church; to Vice President [Joe] Biden; Governor [John Bel] Edwards; Mayor [Kip] Holden; Colonel [Michael] Edmonson; Chief [Carl] Dabadie; Sheriff [Sid] Gautreaux; members of the clergy; officers and deputies; and, most of all, family, friends and loved ones of the fallen – thank you for giving me some time today to join with you – to join with you in grief and in sorrow, but also in honor and praise. It is a deep and humbling privilege to stand with you as we support one another and look for meaning in the midst of tragedy; as we pay tribute to our brothers and sisters who wear the badge and who protect and serve our communities every day in the face of danger and in the shadow of violence; as we pray for strength for Deputy [Nicholas] Tullier, who remains in critical condition; and as we remember three of our fallen friends and loved ones who were taken from us far too suddenly and far too soon. These men were husbands and fathers; brothers and extended family members; friends and colleagues; citizens and leaders. They were public safety officers who served their city with care and compassion. They were ours and by virtue of their deeds, their sacrifice, their commitment, we were theirs. Above all, they were, as Robert Kennedy once said, “Human beings whom other human beings loved and needed.” We uplift them all today.
Deputy Brad Garafola was a man possessed of a deep well of kindness and earnest dedication who was always eager to lend a hand to those in need. A devoted family man, he worked to provide for his beloved four children and to protect them and all the children of Baton Rouge. On the day we lost him, his last message to his wife was, “I love you.’ His last gift to this city was the gift of his bravery and compassion, as he thought only of others – seeking to save his wounded comrade and defend the community he so deeply cherished.
Officer Matthew Gerald was a husband, a father, who lived a life of public service and patriotism. He was a guardian of our essential freedoms overseas in his role as both a Marine and as crew chief of an Army Black Hawk helicopter. Here in Baton Rouge it was fitting that he continued that role, as a guardian of his community and our freedoms here at home. He sought no praise or recognition; he only wanted to keep his community safe, to make his nation stronger and to see his LSU Tigers win on Saturdays. He truly and fully embodied his commitment to protect and serve.
Officer Montrell Jackson was a loving father and a pillar of his community whose life was a portrait of selflessness and devotion as well as a profile in courage. All of that was demonstrated so clearly when he ran into a burning building in an attempt to save a child, but also when he stood steadfast against the heartbreaking tensions that so many of our cities have seen and wrote so movingly of his love for his community and his dedication to those he swore to protect and to serve. The message he left was for all of us when he said, “Please don’t let hate infect your heart.”
In the wake of such a painful tragedy – and in the shadow of such mindless violence – it can feel as if the world is broken beyond repair. It can feel as if we are separated from each other by our own private grief. And it can be tempting to become numb, or to cloak our heartbreak in resentment and anger. But that is not the story of Baton Rouge. That is not the story of Louisiana. And that is not the story of America.
Today, we are standing here together as one community to share our love for these fallen heroes. We are joined by our collective heartache, our common humanity and our shared commitment to the hopeful future that has always been this nation’s guiding star. And in the face of division, we are united not by hate, but by love for those whom we lost; love for those here with us today; and love for the community that joins us still. With this gathering, we honor the love that our fallen friends had for their beloved community – love rooted in sacrifice, in commitment, in devotion to duty and to their fellow man. As it has been written, “Greater love has no one than this – to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
With our presence here today, we honor their love for us and lift up their sacrifice. We signal our country’s desire for healing, for compassion, for safety and for peace. We are a reminder that in difficult times, we find strength by turning to each other, not against each other. We are the embodiment of the world that Deputy Garafola, Officer Gerald and Officer Jackson sought to create through their devotion to public service. And now, we are the inheritors of their legacy and the vessel that must carry their vision forward. This beloved community is the foundation of a living memorial to our fallen heroes – a memorial that we must build together in the weeks and months to come. And so my friends, let us follow their example – “Let us not love with word or tongue but in deed and in truth.”
Our work will not be easy. But as we go forward, I pledge to you that the Department of Justice that I am honored to lead will be there to work alongside you. We will do everything in our power to protect and serve our brave law enforcement officers and their families as well as you protect and serve us. Today and every day, we intend to join with you – with all Louisianans and with all Americans – united in purpose, confident in our ideals and certain that if we stand together, justice shall prevail.
Thank you, once again, for allowing me to be here. May God bless the fallen and their families and shelter their grief with His everlasting grace. May God bless the wounded and give them strength in their hour of need. May God bless the peacemakers and all those who stand the watch so that we may live in freedom. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.