Aug 5, 2021
Joe Biden Awards Four Congressional Gold Medals to US Capitol Police: Speech Transcript
On August 5, 2021, President Joe Biden & Vice President Kamala Harris awarded congressional gold medals to US Capitol police who defended against the January 6th attack. Read the full transcript here.
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Vice President Kamala Harris: (01:38)
Please be seated.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (01:42)
Good afternoon, everyone. It is an honor to be with you. Speaker Pelosi, Chairwoman, Amy Klobuchar, ranking member, Roy Blunt and all the members of Congress, including the Mayor of Washington DC. Thank you for being here with us this afternoon. Like so many gathered here, I was at the United States Capitol the morning of Wednesday, January 6th. I was in a classified meeting with Senator Blunt on national security with fellow members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and not long after I left, the chaos began. Like Americans everywhere, my husband Doug and I watched with absolute shock, as our Capitol was under siege and the people within it, afraid for their lives.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (02:36)
What we know now, is in the midst of that violent attack, there were countless acts of courage and we are here today, in the Rose Garden at the White House to recognize that courage. The officers of the United States Capitol Police and the DC Metropolitan Police risked their own lives to save the lives of others, both on January 6th and on April 2nd. They sacrificed so much to defend our nation and in securing our Capitol, they secured our democracy. These officers are heroes and these officers are patriots and they deserve today, and every day, this honor.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (03:50)
Our nation is grateful for your service and now there are some officers who of course continue to suffer from the injuries seen and unseen. Now, I want to make it clear that you know, that you are not alone and that we all stand with you and of course there are other officers who tragically lost their lives. There is nothing that we can do to bring these officers back or to take away the pain their families feel now, but it is my prayer that their sacrifice will serve as a constant reminder of the work we must all do together of the vigilance we must have in order to protect our democracy.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (04:45)
So I returned to the Senate at around 8:00 PM, the night of January 6th and we gathered in the Senate chamber, in the same chamber where the new deal was struck and the great society was forged, in the same chamber where the Interstate Highway System was started and voting rights were won and in that chamber just before 1:00 AM, as officers stood guard, the final vote was tallied, Democrats, Independents and Republicans came together and upheld the vote and the voice of the American people as those officers continued, even at that late hour, to secure our Capitol. They secured our democracy. So let us never forget that and let us always remember their courage. And it is my great honor to introduce a true champion for all those who serve in uniform, president Joe Biden.
President Joe Biden: (06:10)
Good afternoon. Thank you Vice President Harris. Folks, not even during the Civil War did insurrectionists reach the Capitol of the United States of America, the Citadel of our democracy, not even then, but on January 6th, 2021, they did, they did. A mob of extremists and terrorists launched a violent and deadly assault on the people’s house and the sacred ritual to certify free and fair election. It wasn’t descent, it wasn’t debate, it wasn’t democracy. It was insurrection. It was rioting and mayhem. It was radical and chaotic and it was unconstitutional and maybe most important, it was fundamentally un American, an existential threat and a test of whether our democracy could survive, whether it could overcome lies and overcome the fury of a few who were seeking to thwart the will of the many.
President Joe Biden: (07:38)
While the attack on our values and our votes shocked and saddened the nation, our democracy did survive, it did. Truth defeated lives. We did overcome and that’s because of the women and men of the US Capitol Police, the Washington D.C Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement officials we honor today. Speaker Pelosi, who led the effort in the House, Senator Klobuchar and Blunt, co-sponsors of the legislation of the Senate, they’re all my colleagues, Pat Leahy in-house members that are here, thank you. Thank you. Today, I’m going to sign in law, the bill you sent to me that awards the Congressional Gold Medal to the United States Capitol Police, the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement for their service and defense of our democracy on January 6th, to all of them on behalf of a grateful nation. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for protecting our Capitol. Maybe even more importantly, for protecting our constitution in saving the lives of duly elected members of the Senate and the House and their staffs.
President Joe Biden: (09:05)
In these moments where we’re still debating, these are tragic hours back then. You stood in the breach, you did your duty, duty to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The events that transpired were surprising, but not your character, your courage chief and all of your men. I didn’t grow up with any of you, but I know you and just like all the women and men I grew up with, particularly at that time it was men in Scranton and Claremont, places where the neighborhood I lived in you became a cop, a firefighter or a priest.
President Joe Biden: (09:54)
I wouldn’t qualify for any of them. So here I am but look, all kidding aside, I got to know you. You’re the same ones after a ballgame in a visiting field, come walking out of the gym if you wanted, you’d make a jump by the other team or their supporters. You may be all by yourself. The only one standing there, when you watch six people jump one of our teammates, what the hell would you do? You jump in, you jump in knowing you’re going to get the hell beat out of you too. Police officers are not what you do, it’s who you are.
President Joe Biden: (10:41)
I got to know you after 36 years in the Senate, eight years as the vice president, you’re always there. It’s not a joke. It’s not some high privilege. It’s just duty, honor, service. That’s who you are. That’s who your dad was. That’s who your dad was and America owes you a debt we can never fully repay, but I know receiving this award is bittersweet. On that day more than 140 law enforcement officers suffered physical injuries, an untold number suffered an emotional toll, 15 of you were hospitalized and others were lost forever. May their souls rest in peace in rising glory. I know each time you put on that shield in the morning wherever you show up for work, your families wonder whether they’re going to get a call that day, a call they don’t want to receive, hoping you come home safely.
President Joe Biden: (11:55)
It breaks my heart, it breaks the heart of the nation to remember that you were assaulted by thousands of violent insurrectionists at the Capitol of the United States of America. Jill and I would never have thought we’d have to join you in the Capitol Rotunda, not once, but twice. Once to honor Officer Brian Sicknick who lost his life and the second time to honor Billy Evans, who lost his defending the Capitol as well. Both gave the full measure of their devotion to their country at the United States Capitol. Their families are here today. I know from similar… Yes. We should clap for the families.
President Joe Biden: (12:53)
I know like others and I know from personal experience, getting that phone call. It’s nice to be honored and have those that you lost remembered, but it’s tough to be here because it brings back everything like it happened 10 minutes ago. So I offer you, [inaudible 00:13:29] our condolences, to recognize your courage, the courage of your children and you have our most profound gratitude. You know, the fallen in my view are casualties of a struggle, literally for the soul of American, a struggle that they didn’t start, a struggle we didn’t seek and a struggle that by the grace of God, we’ll win. As I said, I know this is a bittersweet moment, as proud as Brian and Billy, as you are, it still brings back pain the moment it happened and also we offer our prayers for the families of the Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood.
President Joe Biden: (14:29)
For those who’ve been around a while, we knew his dad, knew his dad well. He was Secretary of the United States, a sergeant in arms in the United States Senate. We also pray for the families of the Metro Police Officer Jeffrey Smith. For anyone out there facing trauma for anyone still struggling, please know there is help available. My fellow Americans, the tragedy of that day deserves the truth above all else. We cannot allow history to be rewritten. We can’t allow the heroism of these officers to be forgotten. We have to understand what happened, the honest and unvarnished truth. We have to face it. That’s what great nations do and we are a great nation.
President Joe Biden: (15:25)
In the past weeks and months, we’ve heard the officers themselves, some of whom are here today, describe what happened, the threats, the violence, the savageness. When asked what he was fighting for, Officer Hodges, who’s here today, stated it eloquently, one word, “Democracy.”
President Joe Biden: (15:49)
My fellow Americans, let’s remember what this was all about. It was a violent attempt to overturn the will of the American people, to seek power at all cost, to replace the ballot with brute force, to destroy, not to build. Without democracy, nothing is possible, with it, everything is. So my fellow Americans, we must all do our part to perfect and preserve our democracy. It requires people of goodwill and courage to stand up to the hate, the lies, the extremism that led to this vicious attack, it requires all of us working together Democrats, Republicans, Independents on behalf of the common good to restore decency, honor and respect, for our system of government and above all it requires all of us to remember who we are at our best as a nation as we see it in the law enforcement officers that are here today, the best of our nation. The Congressional Gold Medal Awards today will be housed in four locations.
President Joe Biden: (17:00)
Two medals will be displayed at the US Capitol Police Department and the Washington DC Metro Police Department so that every morning, as you officers walk by seeing those medals and remember the heroism of their colleagues and the importance of their work. The third medal will be displayed at the Smithsonian Museum with a plaque honoring all law enforcement who protected the capital on January 6th so all visitors can understand what happened that day and the fourth one will be displayed at the Capitol itself to remind us all who served and currently serve there and all who visit the honor and the service of those who protect and preserve all of us.
President Joe Biden: (17:48)
I’ll now ask Speaker Pelosi if she’s able… Not able, willing and Senator Klobuchar and Senator Blunt, Chief Contee and Chief Manger and the other officers here today to join me as I sign this Bill into law. May God bless you all and may God protect our troops and all those who serve watch over our democracy. Come on. Yeah, come on. Sure.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (18:10)
President Joe Biden: (19:36)
This is a silly way to do this. Mommy will explain it to you later. [Inaudible 00:19:36].
Speaker 4: (19:51)
That one [inaudible 00:19:51].
President Joe Biden: (19:51)
You put the top on. Thank you so much.
Speaker 4: (19:51)
Speaker 5: (19:51)
Good helper there.
President Joe Biden: (19:51)
Nancy Pelosi: (19:51)
Thank you Mr President.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (20:19)
Let’s see. We’ve got Amy over here and Roy behind you.
President Joe Biden: (20:23)
Roy. Now, you’ve got to help me out, okay?
Speaker 4: (20:27)
President Joe Biden: (20:27)
Would you give a pen to each of the other people back there and then I’ll get pens for you, okay?
Speaker 4: (20:41)
President Joe Biden: (20:41)
All right. So we hand them out now, all right?[Inaudible 00:20:43].
Speaker 6: (20:44)
Thank you sir, [inaudible 00:20:44].
President Joe Biden: (20:50)
No, no, no. [inaudible 00:20:50]. You’ve all been invited to my home. [Inaudible 00:20:52]. Oh, thank you very much. That’s really great. Hey, how are you? How are you?
Speaker 7: (20:50)
Mr President, thank you for this honor today.
President Joe Biden: (21:26)
Thank you all so very much. You’re incredible. I know [inaudible 00:21:26]. All right. Now what I think we’re going to do is go in and then the families are going to go that way and make it down to the Oval Office that way, okay and get some pictures taken. All right and the officers as well if they’re willing. Okay. Follow her. [Inaudible 00:22:06]. Yeah. Come on, family moments, if you’re willing [inaudible 00:22:47] come in.
Nancy Pelosi: (21:59)
Mr President… Oh, here he is.
President Joe Biden: (23:05)
You come with me. [Inaudible 00:23:05]. (silence)