Thank you, Paul, for that introduction. And thanks to all of the chiefs, captains and sergeants who are here, as well as the friends and family who have joined us.
What a pleasure to be here today. What a privilege to join so many men and women in uniform.
Let me add my congratulations to all of the graduates of Class #185 for the North Central Texas Regional Police Academy. Today you leave the classroom. Tomorrow you enter our communities, our neighborhoods and our streets. I thank you for choosing to serve others.
One of my favorite figures in history is Winston Churchill. And I love what he said about courage. He said courage is the most important of all the virtues because it makes all the other virtues possible.
And no one shows us what real courage is like men and women in uniform. Whether they are soldiers in Iraq or police officer in North Texas, those who serve show us courage the very moment they put on the uniform.
We’ve always known this. But sometimes we’ve forgotten it. Sometimes we need reminders of what true courage is. Five and a half years ago, we got such a reminder. On September 11, 2001, a peaceful blue sky was darkened by the ominous dark clouds flowing from the World Trade Centers. Soon, the buildings convulsed with rage and collapsed to the ground.
Many tried to escape the buildings. But others tried to enter it. Not long after the planes hit the towers, police officers began entering the building to save others. Think about that: as the buildings were collapsing, police officers were going in to save others.
Officer Moira Smith was one of them. She was a 38 year-old wife and mother. She was last seen carrying people from one of the buildings and into safety. She died when Tower II collapsed. The daughter she left behind was only two years-old.
Officer David Lim was another. He was in the stairwell of the North Tower when it collapsed. Yet miraculously, he survived. “It lasted about fifteen seconds,” he said of the building falling down all around him. “But it felt like forever.”
Officer Steve Alonso was another hero that day. He was on leave. But police officers are always on call. And so it was that he rushed to the World Trade Centers that day. He survived that fateful day. But he never forgot it.
Listen to how Officer Alonso described the job of being a police officer. “Being a cop is an act of heroism,” he said. “You have to deal with it every single day.”
What is amazing about all of these police officers is that they didn’t find what they did to be amazing. They saw it as part of their job. Being courageous is the first requirement in a police officer’s job description.
And so today, all of you join the ranks of Officers Smith, Lim and Alonso. You join a proud band of brothers and sisters who sacrifice themselves to serve others. And there is no more noble expression of human decency as that. The Bible says no greater love exists than this: that a person risks his own life for others.
All of you are now leaders in your communities. So let me take just a moment and talk to you about what I believe leadership is all about.
First, leadership means not just doing things right, but doing the right thing. As police officers you will have plenty of opportunities to show that you can run a patrol or investigate a crime. And I know that all of you will follow your training closely and you do your jobs effectively.
But more is required of you than that. I urge you to not just look for ways to make the grade, look for ways to make a difference. People look up to you, respond to you, listen to you. You have influence. So use it. Find ways to be an example in your station and in your community. Get to know the people you come across in your area. Volunteer at a local school. Simply put, I urge all of you to do well by doing good. Don’t just be great officers, be good people.
Second, leadership means doing what is hard. Leadership means the willingness to take on big projects, tough assignments and long hours. Are the risks greater for doing it this way? Sure. But so are they rewards.
It wasn’t easy for those NYPD officers to enter the twin towers. They all had families. But they also all had a commitment to protect and serve. And so even though it was difficult, they went into those buildings and save countless lives. Always remember—what you do as police officers may not ever be easy, but it will always be rewarding.
And finally, leadership means setting an example. All of us in public service have a responsibility to not just carry the title but to be worthy of it. You will have a good deal of authority granted to you as an officer. Be careful that you always use it wisely and well. As Dwight Eisenhower once said, a person who values his privileges above his principles will soon lose both. Be proud to be an officer. But take care to be an example. Enjoy the privileges that come with it. But never forget the principles for which you stand. You must always lead by example…always be above reproach…always find ways to warm the cold of life all around you. Be an officer. But more important, be a leader.
In the coming years, you will undoubtedly endure many difficult days. But like fire refines a precious metal, so too your challenges will strengthen and chisel you into even better officers, better leaders, and better people.
Someday and somewhere, I’m quite sure you will determine that Officer Alonso was right. You will decide that every single day is a challenge and an opportunity. My advice is to embrace it.
Every single day you will have the ability to protect the weak and vulnerable. And you will.
Every single day you will have the chance to fight crime and foster hope. And you should.
And every single day you will be called upon to be courageous. And you must.
I want to thank all of you once more for your commitment and your conviction, for your service and your sacrifice. Today, the thin blue line got a little bit deeper here in North Texas. Some great new officers have joined the force. And our communities, our state and our nation will be better, safer places thanks to all of you.
I thank you. I praise you. And I congratulate you.
May God bless you all.