I had the privilege of being the guest speaker this morning at the Special Agent Memorial Service at the FBI offices in downtown Phoenix. About 250 federal and state law enforcement officials attended the event to honor the memory of law enforcement officials who gave their lives during performance of their duties.
We were all moved by the bagpipe performance of “Amazing Grace” as we considered the sacrifices made to preserve public safety and the rule of law. Following my remarks I was honored to be accompanied by the the FBI, DEA, and ATF special agents in charge of the Arizona district, along with U.S. Marshal David Gonzales, as I carried the federal wreath to the front of the stage for a moment of silence.
Here is a portion of my remarks. Forgive me for the long post – but it’s important to take a few moments to remember:
… I come to you today from the outside, as an observer, as one man, one citizen, representing one family in this community, but as I traveled Arizona last year as a political candidate and spoke with tens of thousands of citizens, really I believe I represent most members of our community, no matter their political beliefs, when I say to you – Thank you.
I believe I can speak for most members of our community on this because I see how we respond as private citizens in times of crisis – following a threat to our peace and security from a string of bank robberies, or a violent drug cartel, or a serial killer … or a 9/11.
I’ve seen and felt the outpouring of appreciation for those of you who protect us and who hunt down and bring to justice those who threaten our safety.
And so I am here to say, on behalf of the citizens of our state and nation, “Thank you” for what you do each and every day to keep our communities safe.
Thank you for being willing to lay down your life in defense of our nation, our state and the rule of law.
I pray for you and your families that such sacrifice will never be necessary, and yet our presence here at this event today — and the hundreds of names contained in your event program — remind us of the reality that such a price has been paid many times in the past, and that the weight of that sacrifice falls heavily on the families in this community of law enforcement officials.
Memorial events are important because they force us to remember the things that matter most.
You see, we are a forgetful people. Honestly, the only crime, the only injustice most people in this city are thinking about this morning involves Robert Horry and the decisions of the NBA Commissioner’s office.
The only battle on people’s mind this morning is the battle of a young woman from Glendale to be crowned as this year’s American Idol.
But that’s not a bad thing. That in itself is a testimony to your success. Your diligence, your professionalism, your commitment and at times your sacrifice enables the rest of us to enjoy freedom and prosperity, to appreciate and experience “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
But someone has to stand guard. And much more than most of us who live in this community, you are the ones who stand guard, and who recognize and daily confront the threats we face, both internally and externally.
After Oklahoma City, everyone who shows up for work in a federal building is aware of the risks and the dangers inherent in their work. And after 9/11, we should all be aware that there are those who seek to destroy us and our way of life.
As in the days of the framers of our Constitution, as is declared in the oath of office you take, we still face “enemies, both foreign and domestic.” Freedom will always threaten those enemies, internally and externally, who desire to impose by force their own ideology on our people, and who are willing to strike violently and without warning at symbols of our nation and our government.
We remain a nation and a people at risk in a dangerous world.
As we remember those who have fallen in the performance of their law enforcement duties this morning, I’m reminded of the words of President Reagan at the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that began the liberation of Europe in World War II.
Recalling the heroism of that day, and the sacrifices made, President Reagan asked, “Where do we find such men?”
Indeed, today, as we recall the heroism and the sacrifice of members of the law enforcement community who gave their lives last year and in years past, we ask again today, “Where do we find such women and men?”
Any time we lose a law enforcement official during the performance of his or her duties, a horrible injustice has occurred.
And we have to ask, where is the justice when those who have committed their lives to enforcing the rule of law become victims? A gross injustice has occurred, and for the sake of the families of those who are lost, how do we reconcile that injustice and that loss with our notions of fairness?
For many of us, that reconciliation occurs through our faith, our confidence that there is a place of ultimate justice, where every tear is wiped away and every wrong is righted.
At the same time, our duty now, as Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly reminded us, is to commit ourselves to creating a nation where “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
It is only by rededicating ourselves to preserving the rule of law that we can redeem the sacrifices that have been made, that we can reconcile the injustice of lives lost in the defense of public safety.
We can’t ever take for granted our nation’s commitment to even-handed distribution of equal justice and the rule of law.
We have only to observe what is occurring in Iraq today to recognize how blessed we are. The incredible difficulty, the incredible cost in human lives, both American and Iraqi, in trying to create legal structures, police forces and armies, and then to enforce the rule of a law in a nation that has little experience with justice and democracy – at this point in history we have these daily reminders that we should never take the rule of law for granted.
And so as we remember today those who have given, in Lincoln’s words, “their last full measure of devotion” to the cause of liberty and the rule of law, let us for their sake rededicate ourselves to the cause of justice for which they died.
Thank you for allowing me to be with you this morning, and may God bless you and keep you in the days ahead.