5:18 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Thank you, Vice President Harris.
Folks, not even during the Civil War did insurrectionists breach the Capitol of the United States of America, the citadel of our democracy — not even then. But on January the 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 a free and fair election.
It wasn’t dissent. It wasn’t debate. It wasn’t democracy.
It was insurrection. It was riot 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.
But while the attack on our values and our votes shocked and saddened the nation, our democracy did survive. It did. Truth defeated lies. We did overcome.
And that’s because of the women and men of the U.S. Capitol Police, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and other law enforcement officials who we honor today.
Speaker Pelosi, who led the effort in the House; Senators Klobuchar and Blunt, the co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate; and to all my colleagues — Pat Leahy and House members as well that are here: Thank you. Thank you.
Today, I’m signing into law the bill you sent me that awards the Congressional Gold Medal to the United States Capitol Police, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and other law enforcement for their service in defense of our democracy on January the 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 and saving the lives of duly elected members of the Senate and the House and their staffs.
In these moments when we’re still debating — these were tragic hours back then — you stood in the breach. You did your duty — a 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 or your courage, Chief, and all your men and women.
I didn’t grow up with any of you, but I know you. You’re just like all the women and men I grew up with — particularly, at that time, it was men — in Scranton and Claymont, places where — the neighborhood I lived in — you became a cop, a firefighter, or a priest. (Laughter.) I wasn’t qualified for any of them — (laughter) — so here I am. (Laughter.)
But, look, all kidding aside, I got to know you. You’re the same ones, after a ballgame in a visiting field, that come walking out of the gym if you won, and you may get jumped 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’d jump in. You’d jump in, knowing you’re going to get the hell beat of you too.
Police officers are not what you do; it’s who you are.
I got to know you after 36 years in the Senate, 8 years as Vice President. You’re always there.
It’s not a joke. It’s not some hyperbole to suggest “duty, honor, service.” That’s who you are. That’s who your dad was. It’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 suffering emotional toll. Fifteen of you were hospitalized and others were lost forever. May their souls rest in peace and rise in glory.
I know each time you put on that shield in the morning or whenever you show 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.
And 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 hiron [sic] — to honor Officer Brian Sicknick, who lost his life. And a second time to honor Officer Billy Evans, who lost his defending the Capitol as well. Both gave the full measure of their devotion to the country at the United States Capitol.
Their families are here today. I know from similar — (applause) — yes, we should clap for the families. (Applause.) I know, like others may know, from personal experience, getting that phone call. It’s nice to be honored and have those who 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 not only our condolences, but 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 America — 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 of Brian and Billy as you are, it still brings back pain — the moment it happened.
And also, we also offer our prayers to the families of the Capitol Police Officer, Howard Liebengood. Those who have been around a while, we knew his dad. We knew his dad well. He was Secretary of the United States — Sergeant of Arms of 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 cannot 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.
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 is here today, stated it eloquently — one word: “Democracy.”
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 costs; 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 — perfect and to 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 in the law enforcement officers who are here today — the best of our nation.
The Congressional Gold Medal awards today will be housed in four locations. Two medals will be displayed at the U.S. Capitol Police Department in Washing- — and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department so that every morning, as you officers walk by, seeing those medals, they’ll 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 that protected the Capitol 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 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.
I will now ask Speaker Pelosi, if she’s able — not able, willing — (laughter) — 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.
(The bill is signed.)
5:40 P.M. EDT