Speeches by President Biden at the Presidential Citizens' Medal Ceremony | The White House (2023)

east room

2:40 PM EST

PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much.

Two years ago, on January 6th, our democracy was attacked. It cannot be said otherwise. The US Capitol was invaded, something that had never happened before in US history, even during the Civil War.

A violent mob of insurgents attacked law enforcement agencies, looted holy halls, attacked elected officials - all with the aim of overthrowing the will of the people and usurping the peaceful transfer of power.

All of it - all fueled by lies about the 2020 election.

But on that day two years ago, our democracy held because “we the people,” as the constitution calls us – we the people did not waver. We, the people, survive. We, the people, won.

And on this anniversary, along with the Vice President, the Second Gentleman, and all of you, we honor a remarkable group of Americans who embodied the best before, during, and after January 6, 2021.

For the first time in my presidency, I present the Presidential Citizen Medal, one of our country's highest civic honors. He recognizes, quoting, "citizens of the United States of America who have rendered exemplary service to their country or to their fellow citizens." end of quote.

In a few moments - in a few moments, the full citation of your exemplary acts will be read by a military aide.

But these are these people, these extraordinary Americans.

Heroic law enforcement officers. As Congressman Bennie Thompson - himself a man of immense character and honor - said eloquently of these officers. He said, quote: "You held the fort that day. [And] what was at stake was our democracy. And history will remember your names."

And history will remember their names. They will remember your courage. They will remember your courage. You will remember your extraordinary obligations to your fellow Americans. This is not an exaggeration; This is a fact. This is a fact.

And, folks, history will also remember your instincts to react to something as you did - and as we all watched. That's the irony of it all: all of America has seen it - seen it on TV and seen it again and again.

In recent months, we've heard you testify before the nation about what happened that day. what were you thinking at the time it happened; what are you thinking about right now - the threats, the violence, the savagery of what happened, the trauma. Everything is real.

And it's no exaggeration to say that America owes you - owes you everything - I really mean it - a debt - a debt of gratitude, a debt we can never fully repay unless we live up to what you've done. live what you did

And what you did was really important. No kidding.

If I can stop for a second and just tell you: The ramifications of what happenedJuly[January 6] had international ramifications far beyond what I think any of you can fully comprehend.

The first meeting I had of the so-called G7 - the seven major economies of the world, democracies - I sat down - was in February; it was in England - and I was sitting next to the French President, opposite the German Chancellor and so on. And I said, "America is back." Do you know what the answer was? No kidding. "For how long?" "For how long?"

And I was there and looking. And I think it was the Prime Minister of Italy who said that, but I can't remember exactly which of the seven-six said that. "And what would you think, Mr President, if you woke up tomorrow and read a headline in the press saying that in the British Parliament a mob entered the corridor, broke down the doors of the House of Commons, policemen were killed or died, the place vandalized to bring down the election of the mayor - the election of a prime minister?

Think about it. Think about it. What would we think if we heard the news today that every other leading democracy in the world has gone through this?

So, folks, what these people and the people who represent those who couldn't be here because they gave their lives to be here have done is incredibly important. And this is not political talk. This is a historical fact.

Officer Daniel Hodges, Metropolitan Police Department, Virginia National Guard. Eight years – eight years at the pace. And his first time on Capitol Hill was January 6th. Sprayed with poison. Trapped and crushed. eye almost gouged out.

But it didn't break. After it was over, he was asked what he fought for. This is a native, an ordinary American. And he gave a simple and direct answer. "What did you fight for?" His spontaneous answer was: “democracy”. This was what he was fighting for, he knew. He was not a scholar. He was not a historian. He was a Native American. He fought for democracy.

Former Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone. We became known friends. I knew him - I got to know him better. Twenty years in office. An experienced drug detective. In a time of crisis, he was asked to infiltrate elsewhere, but he heeded our nation's call to crisis in the Capitol. And you answered, Michael. you always did

He was hit. beaten. He didn't push, he hit. And he was electrocuted. Referred to as a traitor as the crowd shouted, if you remember, "Kill him with his own gun." "Kill him with his own weapon."

But he defended our democracy with absolute courage. And he has since spoken out strongly to make sure people are held accountable, knowing it could happen again. There are no guarantees, except us, all of you.

Private First Class Harry Dunn of the United States Capitol Police. Fourteen years of service. In this day,
he was standing in front of President Pelosis's office. He stood guard and protected colleagues who were already injured. He fought insurgents across the Capitol while being called the nastiest racist names.

His own congressman, a true constitutional scholar, Jamie Raskin - who couldn't be here today because he's recovering from cancer treatments but called - he wanted me to say this and I wrote: "Officer Harry Dunn acted with remarkable courage and bravery in defense of our institutions and our people.” He continued, “Generations to come will think of him and these officers and thank them for their service.” End of quote.

cop

(Video) WATCH: Biden honors Jan. 6 officers with Presidential Citizens Medals

Carol

[Caroline] Edwards. Five years of service, US Capitol Police. Standing in front of the first wave of the crowd, she said - and I don't - I hope I'm quoting you correctly. They said, “It looked like something out of a movie.” “It looked like something out of a movie.” Sometimes, in crises, things seem surreal. "It looked like something out of a movie."

Knocked out with a traumatic brain injury, she got up to help hold the line.

The granddaughter of two proud military veterans says it was her job to "protect America's symbol of democracy" - final quote: this building.

Sergeant Officer Here- Excuse me.

SERGEANT AQUILINO: Aquilino.

THE PRESIDENT:

aquiline

[Aquiline]. Thanks buddy. (laughs) I'm glad you know your name. (Laughter and applause) You can call me Presidentpray andfrom now on if he wants to. (Laughter and applause.)

A proud immigrant from the Dominican Republic. Sixteen years of service. Like my son, an Iraq war veteran in the US military - the US Army - who described January 6th as something out of a medieval battle.

He was trying to stop the insurgents from entering the tunnel entrance on the west lower terrace when he was hit, blinded by a laser and impaled by an American pole bearing an American flag - the flag he was sworn to defend.

He stood firm in the gap with a deep and abiding love for his country.

Officer Eugene Goodman, an Army veteran who put himself at risk as the leader of a Marine squad while leading combat patrols to identify explosives in Baghdad. He's come home - he's come home to protect the US Capitol for the last 15 years.

On January 6, he risked his own safety to distract an insurgent strike group. He said his duty is to serve and protect. And he said that on that day he only played one role - he "protected". And he did. He protected.

I know this honor is bittersweet for all of you.

More than 140 officers suffered physical injuries that day and countless more are suffering as a result.
also the psychological toll of the day. PSD does not take place either - only on the military battlefield.

Others are gone forever.

And I said before, if I could just wait here a minute -- I said before, you know, for those who lost someone that day, they're proud as hell that their relatives are honored, but man, it's tough. I know how proud I am when my son Beau is honored on the anniversary of his death from burn injuries in Iraq. But it brings it all back as if it happened in that moment.

So to all the families here - all the families here that have lost someone, my heart goes out to you. And I want to thank you for having the courage to be here today to let the rest of America know what your relatives did, including Capitol Trooper Brian Sicknick, who will receive this medal posthumously. A veteran of the New Jersey Air National Guard. Thirteen years on the Capitol Police Force as an officer. He lost his life after protecting the citadel of democracy.

His family joined us today, who my wife, Jill, and I met when we paid our respects in the Capitol Rotunda two years ago. I know you're proud of the honor Brian is receiving, but I also know that difficult moment because it brings it all back as if it happened today.

But thanks for being here. And thanks for letting us remember Brian. Thanks.

Capitol Trooper Howard Liebengood, who received this medal posthumously.

Howard's father was a good friend of mine. I served with his father. His father was a sergeant-at-arms in the United States Senate and chief of staff for Republican senators. We were real friends.

Constable Liebengood patrolled the grounds in front of the Senate Building on January 6. For the next few days he worked almost non-stop. And he lost his life after protecting the democratic institutions he grew up adoring.

His family, the widow Serena, are here today.

Serena honored Howard's memory by campaigning for, quote, "positive change in the mental health of your fellow officers" and other reforms to help them deal with the crises they face.

Metropolitan Police Officer - Department Officer Jeffrey Smith, who will also receive this medal posthumously.

He was part of the first line of officers to enter when the Capitol was stormed. He attacked several times, the last time with a metal pipe.

After his death, his widow, along with - Erin - his widow Erin and many others worked tirelessly to get Congress to pass the Public Safety Officers Support Act, which I signed last summer.

The law recognizes death by silent injury, as do Officer Smith and Officer Liebengood, so future families of public safety officers who die as a result of traumatic circumstances will receive the benefits they deserve. It's too late.

Today is a ceremony honoring the heroes of January 6th, but we also pay tribute to the late U.S. Capitol Trooper Billy Evans. His family is with us today.

Three months after January 6th, while they were still shutting down the Capitol because these threats - by these sick insurgents - continued to circulate the internet, all of America saw again what happened that killed Officer Evans when he hit a checkpoint and had to pass through to get to the capitol because of these horrible sick threats that continue to spread. And the whole world saw it.

(Video) WATCH LIVE: President Biden awards 12 Citizens Medals on Jan. 6 anniversary

It's hard to believe. It's hard to believe that this could happen here in America.

When I was a 29-year-old boy elected to the Senate, I came here to be sworn in, I was -- after my 30-year hearing) -- (Laughter) -- that I could hear my own voice -- (Laughter) and applause) -- I would be surprised

But jokes aside, think about it. Think about it.

Jill and I also met the family at the rotunda to offer our condolences.

And I was honored to sign legislation awarding the Congressional Medal - Gold Medal to those who protected the Capitol on January 6th and honoring Officers Sicknick, Evans, Liebengood and Smith for their sacrifices. These officers are the best among us.

And we are also honored to be here today with many other members of various law enforcement agencies who were here on January 6th. Our thanks also go out to all of them.

I want to thank you all for your service, your strength, your courage and, I know it's corny to say, but your patriotism.

Joining these honored officers are five other officers:

Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss - her grandmother - where are you? – sit – there, right in the middle. (Applause.) They were campaign workers from Atlanta, Georgia.

Ruby, who went from running her own business for years to working around election time to honor the right to vote, her beloved city's legacy.

His daughter Shaye, who learned from her grandmother how the older generations of her family fought so hard for the right to vote. So Shaye decided to become a full-time researcher to help seniors, the disabled, and students exercise their basic right to vote.

Both were just doing their jobs until they were attacked and threatened by the same predators and lie-mongers that would fuel the riot. They were literally evicted from their homes and confronted with despicable racist insults.

But through it all, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss found the courage to speak openly and honestly across the country and the world about their experiences, to correct the lies and defend the integrity of our elections.

Ruby and Shaye, you don't deserve what happened to you, but you do deserve the nation's eternal thanks for showing the dignity and grace of We the People. Pretentious of me, but I'm so proud of you both. So proud of you two.

Albert Schmidt, a former Philadelphia Republican commissioner who spent a decade overseeing the impartial counting of votes. But like so many other local election officials, he was harassed and threatened in 2020 for doing his job diligently.

He didn't give in, he didn't give in, he didn't give in to political threats and pressure.

And both political parties trust him so much that Pennsylvania's new Democratic governor, Josh Shapiro, appointed him Pennsylvania's Secretary of State - a Republican - to ensure the integrity of the election. (Applause.) That's high praise. His character and dedication speak volumes about We the People.

We see this with Jocelyn Benson, who was twice elected Michigan Secretary of State to protect the sacred right to vote and ensure votes are counted fairly. That's what she did in 2020, when she oversaw a record number of Michiganders running in that election, only to find an armed mob - an armed mob outside her home on Christmas Eve, as she and her son decorated the Christmas tree. Christmas inside.

But she refused to back down. She had done her duty. She kept her oath. Full of integrity, she is a true leader in our nation. And thank you, thank you, thank you for what you've done. (Applause) I'm serious.

And finally, Rusty Bowers, former Republican Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives.

When I met him today, I said, "I hope I don't tarnish your reputation." (Laughter) Where are you, Rusty? Look, he's hiding behind you. He can, you know. (Laughter.)

Rusty, we may not agree on everything, but we do agree on what this country is all about. We agree that public service isn't cheap - it's not about what you're willing to do to win, it's about what you're willing to lose. what are you willing to lose.

Rusty put his commitment to this country's constitution above all else as he withstood intense political pressure to fix the 2020 election results. His bravery is probably the reason he missed elementary school last year.

Rusty, you are an example - you are a demonstration to every young man and woman who is thinking about going into politics, what integrity is - what integrity is. And I'm not exaggerating.

Thank you, thank you for your integrity and your honor. (Applause.)

So folks, my countrymen, I want you to give another round of applause to today's Presidential Citizens Medal recipients. Patriots who performed exemplary actions in the service of this great nation.

And let me close with this. Eighty-two years ago, on this very day in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union address, which became known as his famous "Four Freedoms" speech, as it defined America's place in the world.

He reminded the American people, citing, the "power of the things that were done to make the people aware of their individual participation in maintaining democratic life in America. Things that hardened the fiber of our people, renewed their faith and strengthened their devotion to institutions that we prepare to protect.” End of quote.

(Video) Presidential Citizens Medal awarded to 12 individuals in White House ceremony

Eighty years ago, after that speech, on that day two years ago, we were reminded of the most fundamental thing: democracy itself.

As I said, we are at a defining moment in our nation's history. On January 6th, it is a reminder that nothing is taken for granted in our democracy.

Remember learning in grade school or high school that every generation should deserve it, defend it, and protect it?

I was a senator for a long time. I was vice president, then president. Gotta tell you, I started to think that looking back on it, it was just permanent, the United States. It was just forever. Nothing would happen.

That's why I was so pleased to see Democrats and Republicans working together to pass the Voter Census Reform Act that I just signed legislation to protect the will of the people and the peaceful transfer of power.

And defending and protecting our democracy also means that, despite our differences, we must say clearly and with one voice that there is no -- no -- zero, zero place in America for voter bullying -- zero, never -- and violence. policy . They completely contradict the understanding of democracy.

You know, America is a country of law, not chaos. A nation of peace and not of violence. We are not a country of kings and dictators, autocrats and extremists.

As we see in today's honorees, we are a nation of "We the People", strengthening our nerves, renewing our faith and strengthening our cause.

Think about who in God's name we are. We are the United States of America. No kidding. (Applause.) We are the United States of America. And there's nothing - there's nothing - there's never been a single thing we set out to do that we didn't achieve. Nothing is beyond our abilities when we act together and remember who we are in the name of God.

So God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. And may God protect those who care for our democracy.

Now I have the opportunity and great honor to present the medals to these amazing people and their representatives.

Lieutenant Commander Shields, will you please come and read the citations?

MILITARY ASSISTANCE: Recipients of the Presidential Citizen Medal.

Jocelyn Benson. (Beifall.)

Jocelyn Benson is twice elected Secretary of State by the people of Michigan, where she remains steadfastly committed to protecting the right to vote and the integrity of our elections in the state of Michigan. In 2020, she presided over a record-breaking election, confirming the results in the face of unprecedented pressure and threats, including armed protesters outside her home. We, the people, honor Michigan's courageous and steadfast Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, as she continues her exemplary public service to promote free and fair elections in our country. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Russel Bowers. (Aplausos.)

An artist, farmer, and fourth-generation Arizonan, Rusty Bowers represented the people of Arizona for nearly two decades and became Speaker of the House of Representatives. At a terrible moment in our democracy, he put the country ahead of the party by rejecting attempts to unravel the 2020 elections and overthrow the will of the people. He endured threatening protests, including at his home, and ended up losing an election for his courageous actions. We, the people, honor Rusty Bowers, an officer guided by a deep faith and an unbreakable oath to God, his family and his country. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Harry Dun. (Applause.)

Harry Dunn, a champion college football forward, nurtured his protective instincts as a US police officer. Capitol used for a greater purpose. On January 6, 2021, he rushed to protect injured fellow officers repelling insurgents. Her powerful testimony, which describes violence and poignant racism, set the facts of the day into history, and her advocacy for public officials struggling with ongoing trauma is helping to alleviate the stigma surrounding mental health in our country. For defending the citadel of our democracy and for seeking truth and healing, we, the people, honor Harry A. Dunn, Private First Class, US Capitol Police. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Carolina Eduardos. (Applause.)

Granddaughter of proud military veterans, Caroline Edwards left a corporate career to follow in their footsteps and serve our nation. On January 6, 2021, she helped stop the insurgents' advance, even after being knocked unconscious in the brutal first wave of the mob. She also fought as a police union executive and peer counselor, and her testimony before Congress will help ensure her bravery is never forgotten. We the People honors US Capitol Trooper Caroline Edwards for her courageous defense of our democracy and service to colleagues. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Michael Fanone. (Applause.)

Grandson of a policeman, Michael Fanone was born to protect and serve. A decorated narcotics officer, he took an off-duty call on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021, and helped clear insurgents from a key tunnel and fend off a vicious attack. He immediately became one of the most sincere truth-seekers of the age. We the People honors former Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone for his sheer bravery in protecting the Capitol and our democracy, and his constant quest for accountability. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Ruby Freeman. (Beifall.)

(Video) Biden marks 2 years since Jan. 6 attacks, presenting Presidential Citizens Medals

Inspired by the suffrage legacy of her beloved Atlanta, Lady Ruby Freeman saw her civic duty as a Fulton County Election Official as a sacred mission to ensure that the people of Georgia could exercise their fundamental right to vote freely and fairly. In the 2020 election, she maintained that sacred mission despite an orchestrated campaign to overthrow the election that targeted and threatened her and her family. For the nation, she witnessed the trauma and tragedy of that experience, and today we, the people, honor Lady Ruby Freeman as part of our nation's suffrage history. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Aquilino Gonell. (Beifall.)

As a child, Aquilino Gonell emigrated to America from the Dominican Republic. He was the first in his family to graduate from college and serve in the US Army and then the US Capitol Police. On January 6, 2021, he courageously stood at the doors of the Capitol as insurgents stormed the entrance and sustained serious injuries while protecting congressmen and defending our democracy. He later publicly testified to ensure that our nation and our history were never forgotten. By patriotism that puts love of country before self-love, we the people honor America. Aquiline Capitol Police Sergeant A Gonell. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Eugene Gutman. (Applause.)

Eugene Goodman, an Army combat veteran and US Capitol Police officer, personifies fearless public service. In the January 6, 2021 injury, he focused on distracting insurgents from the Senate chamber and allowing the former vice president, lawmakers and officials to safely escape. In the face of clear and present danger, he did his duty and did not waver. We, the people, honor US Capitol Trooper Eugene Goodman for his bravery in upholding the constitutional order. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Daniel Hodges. (Applause.)

As a Virginia National Guard and Metropolitan Police Department officer, Daniel Hodges has dedicated his life to serving his community and our nation. On January 6, 2021, he struggled to push insurgents out of a key tunnel into the Capitol and returned to line even after being brutally knocked out and beaten. His courageous testimony will help ensure that we never again forget or allow such an attack. We the People honors Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges for his heroism and unwavering commitment to the truth. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

dr Serena Liebengood accepting on behalf of Howard Liebengood. (Applause.)

The proud son of a US Senate Sergeant-At-Arms, Howard Liebengood left a career as a champion racing driver to follow in his late father's footsteps and protect the democratic institutions they both revered. He died after fighting insurgents on Capitol Hill and remaining in the crucial days after January 6 to restore security. His heartbreaking loss helped change the law to better recognize the unimaginable sacrifice many officers and their families are subjected to. We the People honors US Capitol Trooper Howard C. Liebengood for his deep commitment and selfless service. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Wandrea'ArShaye Moss. (Applause.)

Inspired by the stories her mother told her about the American suffrage movement, Shaye Moss pursued a career as a campaign worker in Fulton County, Georgia. Because of her dedicated service, she faced death threats, harassment and intimidation from those seeking to overturn the 2020 election result. She would later testify before the nation about her pain and resolve. Today, we the people honor Shaye Moss for helping to ensure that the American people have a voice in our nation's destiny. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Alberto Schmidt. (Applause.)

A former federal official and Philadelphia City Commissioner, Albert Schmidt has dedicated his career to the unknown but necessary task of making democracy work for the people. In the 2020 elections, despite intense political pressure, he did what he always did: ensure the integrity of the election and diligently ensure the impartial counting of votes. We, the people, honor Albert Schmidt for his clear intent to protect the sacred right to vote for every American and to make that vote count. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Charles and Gladys Sicknick on behalf of Brian D. Sicknick. (Applause.)

Brian Sicknick, a New Jersey Air National Guard who served two overseas tours, was a US Capitol Police officer dedicated to serving our nation. He guarded the Capitol for over a decade, including January 6, 2021. He lost his life protecting our elected officials, defending the will of the American people, and defending our Constitution. His heroism, courage and character set an example for future generations of Americans and will never be forgotten. For his service and ultimate sacrifice, We the People honors US Capitol Trooper Brian D. Sicknick. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

Erin Smith accepting on behalf of Jeffrey L. Smith. (Applause.)

Officer Jeffrey Smith, a 12-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, has dedicated his life to public service. On January 6, 2021, while fighting the violent mob, Officer Smith suffered devastating head injuries from multiple attacks inside and outside the Capitol. He died protecting Congress, guarding the Capitol and preserving our democracy. His death sparked changes in law that honor the unspoken wounds of our fallen officers. We the People honors Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jeffrey L. Smith for his extraordinary heroism, sheer courage and unwavering devotion to the nation. (Applause.)

(The Presidential Citizen Medal is awarded.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I said at the beginning, this is justified - in a backward sense - but also incredibly difficult for the families and especially for the families of those who lost a hero defending our democracy. And - but I'm telling you, people who will sadly suffer similar losses will look at all of you and say, "That's the grace and dignity I want to show."

(Video) Obama surprises VP, Joe Biden with Presidential Medal of Freedom

So really, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I want to thank you again for your service and sacrifice. And may God bless their families. May God protect our troops. Thank you all. (Applause.)

3:23 PM EST

Videos

1. President Biden awards 12 Citizens Medals on Jan. 6 anniversary
(NBC4 Columbus)
2. Former Pres. Obama trolls Pres. Biden
(ABC News)
3. Biden awards Presidential Citizens Medals on two-year anniversary of Jan. 6
(CNBC Television)
4. Elton John shocked as Joe Biden surprises him with National Humanities Medal
(Guardian News)
5. President Biden Marks the Two-Year Anniversary of the January 6th Insurrection During a Ceremony
(The White House)
6. President Biden awards Presidential Citizens Medals to those who helped stop Jan. 6 rioters
(10 Tampa Bay)

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