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President Obama Hosts a Medal of Valor Ceremony

President Obama Hosts a Medal of Valor Ceremony

The President: Thank you. And good morning. Welcome to the White House. Thank you, Attorney General
Lynch, for your words and your leadership. We’ve got a couple members
of Congress here — Frederica Wilson and
Chris Collins we want to acknowledge. And I also want to recognize
Director Comey, members of the Fraternal Order
of Police, and all the outstanding law enforcement
officials who are here from around the country. I’m proud to stand with you
as we celebrate Police Week. And most of all, I’m proud
to be with the heroes on the front row, and with the
families who have supported them — and the family of
one who made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s been said that perfect
valor is doing without witnesses what you would
do if the whole world were watching. The public safety officers
we recognize today with the Medal of Valor found
courage not in search of recognition, they
did it instinctively. This is an award that
none of them sought. And if they could go back
in time, I suspect they’d prefer none of
this had happened. As one of today’s honorees
said about his actions, “I could have very well gone my
whole career and not dealt with this situation and
been very happy with that.” If they had their way, none
of them would have to be here, and so we’re grateful
that they are and our entire nation expresses its
profound gratitude. More important, we’re so
grateful that they were there — some on duty,
others off duty, all rising above and beyond
the call of duty. All saving the lives of
people they didn’t know. That distinction — that
these 13 officers of valor saved the lives of strangers
— is the first of several qualities that they share. But their bravery, if it had
not been for their bravery, we likely would have lost
a lot of people — mothers, fathers, sons, daughters,
friends and loved ones. Thankfully, they are still
with their families today because these officers were
where they needed to be most, at a critical time:
At a gas station during a routine patrol. In the middle of
a busy hospital. In a grocery store. On the campus of a
community college. Near an elementary school
where a sheriff’s deputy’s own children were students
and his wife taught. In all of these places, in
each of these moments, these officers were true
to their oaths. To a person, each of these
honorees acted without regard for their own safety. They stood up to dangerous
individuals brandishing assault rifles,
handguns, and knives. One officer sustained
multiple stab wounds while fighting off an assailant. Another endured first-degree
burns to his arms and face while pulling an unconscious
driver from a burning car on a freeway. Each of them will tell you,
very humbly, the same thing — they were just
doing their jobs. They were doing what they
had to do, what they were trained to do, like
on any other day. The officer who suffered
those terrible burns — he left urgent care and
went straight to work. He had to finish his shift. That sense of duty and
purpose is what these Americans embody. The truth is, it’s because
of your courage, sometimes seen, but sometimes unseen,
that the rest of us can go about living our lives
like it’s any other day. Going to work, going to
school, spending time with our families,
getting home safely. We so appreciate our public
safety officers around the country, from our rookie
cadets to our role model of an Attorney General. Not everyone will wear the
medal that we give today, but every day, so many of
our public safety officers wear a badge of honor. The men and women who run
toward danger remind us with your courage and humility
what the highest form of citizenship looks like. When you see students and
commuters and shoppers at risk, you don’t see these
civilians as strangers. You see them as part of
your own family, your own community. The Scripture teaches us,
you love your neighbor as yourself. And you put others’
safety before your own. In your proud example of
public service, you remind us that loving our country
means loving one another. Today, we also want to
acknowledge the profound sacrifices made
by your families. And I had the chance to meet
some of them and they were all clearly so proud of
you, but we’re very proud of them. We know that you wait up
late, and you’re worried and you’re counting down the
minutes until your loved one walks through the door,
safe, after a long shift. We know it never gets
easier, and we thank you for that. And of course, we honor
those who didn’t come home, including one hero we
honor posthumously today — Sergeant Robert Wilson III. He gave his life when two
men opened fire at a video game store where Sergeant
Wilson was buying a son a birthday present. To his family who’s here —
his grandmother, Constance, his brother and sister —
please know how deeply sorry we are for your loss, how
grateful we are for Sergeant Wilson’s service. We also honor the more than
35 who’ve given their lives in the line of duty
so far this year. One of them, an officer in
Virginia named Ashley Marie Guindon, was taken from us
on her very first shift. I’ve seen this sacrifice
when I’ve joined some of you at the National Law
Enforcement Officers Memorial not far from here. We read the names carved on
these walls, and we grieve with the families who carry
the fallen in their hearts forever. We’ve been moved, deeply, by
their anguish — but also by their pride in the lives
their loved ones lived. And in those moments, we’re
reminded of our enduring obligation as citizens —
that they sacrificed so much for — that we do right by
them and their families. And medals and ceremonies
like today are important, but these aren’t enough to
convey the true depth of our gratitude. Our words will be hollow
if they’re not matched by deeds. So our nation has a
responsibility to support those who serve and protect
us and keep our streets safe. We can show our respect by
listening to you, learning from you, giving you the
resources that you need to do the jobs. That’s the mission of our
police task force, which brought together local law
enforcement, civil rights and faith leaders, and
community members to open dialogue and build trust and
find concrete solutions that make your jobs safer. Our country needs
that right now. We’re going to keep pushing
Congress to move forward in a bipartisan way to make
our criminal justice system fairer and smarter and more
cost-effective, and enhance public safety and ensure the
men and women in this room have the ability to enforce
the law and keep their communities safe. A few minutes ago, I signed
into law a package of bills to protect and honor our
law enforcement officers, including one that will help
state and local departments buy more bulletproof vests. Emerson once said, “there
is always safety in valor.” The public safety officers
we honor today give those words new meaning, for
it’s your courage and quick thinking that gave
us our safety. So we want to thank
you for your service. We want to thank your
families for your sacrifice. I had a chance before I came
out here to meet with the recipients, and I told
them that, although this particular moment for which
you are being honored is remarkable, we also know
that every day you go out there you’ve
got a tough job. And we could not be prouder
of not only moments like the ones we recognize here
today, but just the day-to-day grind —
you’re doing your jobs professionally; you’re doing
your jobs with character. We want you to know we could
not be prouder of you, and we couldn’t be prouder of
your families for all the contributions that you make. So may God bless you
and your families. May God bless our
fallen heroes.

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