Full Text Political Transcripts May 16, 2016: President barack Obama’s Remarks at Presentation of the Medal of Valor

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Presentation of the Medal of Valor

Source: WH, 5-16-16

East Room

11:30 A.M. EDT

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.  <ay God bless the United States of America.

And it’s now my honor to award these medals as the citations are read.

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Mario Gutierrez.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Mario Gutierrez, Miami-Dade Police Department, Florida, for bravery and composure while enduring a violent attack.  Officer Gutierrez sustained multiple stab wounds while subduing a knife-wielding assailant who attempted to set off a massive gas explosion that could have resulted in multiple fatalities.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Patrolman Lewis Cioci.  Medal of Valor presented to Patrolmen Lewis Ciochi, Johnson City Police Department, New York, for courageously resolving a volatile encounter with a gunman.  After witnessing the murder of his fellow officer, Patrolman Cioci pursued and apprehended the gunman at a crowded hospital, thereby saving the lives of employees, patients, and visitors.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Jason Salas, Officer Robert Sparks, and Captain Raymond Bottenfield.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Jason Salas, Officer Robert Sparks, and Captain Raymond Bottenfield, Santa Monica Police Department, California, for courage and composure in ending a deadly rampage.  Officer Salas, Officer Sparks, and Captain Bottenfield placed themselves in mortal danger to save the lives of students and staff during a school shooting on the busy campus of Santa Monica College.

(The medals are awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Major David Huff.  Medal of Valor presented to Major David Huff, Midwest City Police Department, Oklahoma, for uncommon poise in resolving a dangerous hostage situation.  Major Huff saved the life of a two-year-old girl after negotiations deteriorated with a man holding the child captive at knifepoint.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Donald Thompson.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Donald Thompson, Los Angeles Police Department, California, for courageous action to save an accident victim.  While off duty, Officer Thompson traversed two freeway dividers and endured first- and second-degree burns while pulling an unconscious man to safety from a car moments before it became engulfed in flames.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Coral Walker.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Coral Walker, Omaha Police Department, Nebraska, for taking brave and decisive action to subdue an active shooter.  After exchanging gunfire, Officer Walker singlehandedly incapacitated a man who had killed an injured multiple victims on a shooting spree.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Gregory Stevens.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Gregory Stevens, Garland Police Department, Texas, for demonstrating extraordinary courage to save lives.  Officer Stevens exchanged gunfire at close range and subdued two heavily armed assailants, preventing a deadly act of terrorism.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Mrs. Constance Wilson, accepting on behalf of Sergeant Wilson, III.  Medal of Valor presented to fallen Sergeant Robert Wilson, III, Philadelphia Police Department, Pennsylvania, for giving his life to protect innocent civilians. Sergeant Wilson put himself in harm’s way during an armed robbery, drawing fire from the assailants and suffering a mortal wound as he kept store employees and customers safe.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Niel Johnson.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Niel Johnson, North Miami Police Department, Florida, for swift and valorous action to end a violent crime spree.  Officer Johnson pursued a man who had shot a Miami police officer and two other innocent bystanders, withstanding fire from an assault weapon and apprehended the assailant.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Special Agent Tyler Call.  Medal of Valor presented to Special Agent Tyler Call, Federal Bureau of Investigation, for his heroic actions to save a hostage.  Special Agent Cull, who was off duty with his family, helped rescue a woman from her ex-husband, who had violated a restraining order and held the victim at gunpoint.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Deputy Joey Tortorella.  Medal of Valor presented to Deputy Joey Tortorella, Niagara County, Sheriff’s Office, New York, for placing himself in grave danger to protect his community.  Deputy Tortorella confronted and subdued a violent gunman who had shot and wounded his parents inside their home, and by doing so, prevented the gunmen from threatening the safety of students at a nearby elementary school.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s give one last big round of applause to the recipients of the Medal of Valor.  (Applause.)

Thank you all.  Thank you for your dedication.  Thanks for your service.  You are continuously in our thoughts and prayers, and we are continuously giving thanks for all that you and your families do.

Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
11:57 A.M. EDT

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