It was heartwarming to see the overwhelming support from my colleagues in Congress and people across the country, who displayed blue lights in their windows, wore blue, or simply thanked a cop in honor of National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day this past Monday. A big thank you to KOMO 4 News for covering some of my office’s efforts to encourage Members to participate and for recognizing the importance of honoring those who do the most to keep our families safe.
And thank you to Speaker Ryan, for asking me to write a guest post in honor of this important day. But most of all, thank you to the men and women who leave home each morning not knowing if they’ll return that night so our families feel safe.
On Monday, I spoke on the House floor to recognize these men and women. Tragically, only hours before I took to the floor, I learned that two additional members of law enforcement in Orlando, FL - Master Sgt. Debra Clayton with the Orlando PD and Deputy First Class Norman Lewis with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office - had been killed in the line of duty on a day designated to celebrate our appreciation for their service.
After a year where we saw a spike in targeted attacks on law enforcement and lost a total of 135 mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, I thought it was important to end my remarks on the House floor with a unifying message calling for teamwork and peace from one of my favorite musicians, James Brown. In one of his lesser known songs from the 1960s, he says, "America is the greatest country in the world…Now black and white they may fight, but when the enemy comes we get together and run ‘em out of sight.”
Powerful words coming from an African American man living in the 1960s.
Unfortunately, the “enemy” has become increasingly clear over the past several years as we have watched police-community relations continue to deteriorate: the enemy is hate. I say we take James Brown’s advice: let’s get together and run it out of sight.
This coming Monday, we will celebrate Martin Luther King Day to honor the most influential and inspirational unifying figure of the 20th Century. Dr. King taught us the power of hope and the importance of peace. He also taught us that Americans cannot solve problems when we are divided. We must come together under our common goals of peace and keeping our families safe. As Dr. King once said, "We must all learn to live together as brothers and sisters or we will all perish together as fools."
Please click the image below to watch my remarks on the House floor or read the full transcript of my speech below:
“Mr. Speaker today is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
Behind me are the faces of the 135 men and women. The faces of those who paid the ultimate price serving and protecting us this past year so that our families, our children can live safe and enjoy our freedom. Freedom isn't free!
You may not know or recognize these faces, but you know the faces of others who have served or who are serving today. They are the faces of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and friends. Some were ambushed and executed, some lost their lives responding to a call to save a life, someone who called for help.
Tacoma Police Officer Jake Gutierrez from my home state of Washington is one of the faces behind me. He lost his life in the line of duty just last month while trying to protect a woman from domestic violence.
Jake was supposed to exchange wedding vows with his fiancé in just a few weeks.
Instead, she and his three daughters and granddaughter attended his funeral and tried to picture a life without Jake.
Tragically, again last month a time meant for celebration, was filled with pain for another Washington family.
Veteran officer Mike McClaughry from the Mt. Vernon Police Department was shot in the head while responding to a call for help.
Today his children, wife, friends, and family sit by his hospital bed as his life is now in the hands of God and his doctors.
This feeling of loss is one that I too am familiar with.
In 1982, my partner and best friend, Sgt. Sam Hicks, was shot to death attempting to arrest a murder suspect. He left behind his wife and five sons.
That was over 30 years ago but the loss of a loved one is a pain that time cannot erase.
This national day of appreciation is not only a day to reflect and appreciate the service of those that have served but those that are serving today.
They are driving, walking, patrolling your neighborhoods, keeping us safe, ready to put their life on the line yes, but every day they do so much more for us that goes unnoticed.
The officer that took a stolen bike report at Christmas and the next day delivered a new bike to the little boy’s house.
Or the officer who anonymously buys groceries for a needy family.
The officer who counseled a little girl who was being bullied because of the clothes she wore and then bought her a set of new clothes.
Or the officer who cradled a two month old baby in his arms giving CPR to his little fragile blue face hoping for the best but fearing the worst, then headed off to the next call.
Or the officer who held the hand of a dying man after a motorcycle accident and shared his last words with his family.
The officer who was spit on, ridiculed, insulted by a man threatening to kill him and his wife then minutes later saving that same man from taking his own life.
These men and woman are coaches, volunteers, mentors, helping people find jobs, feeding the homeless, helping them find homes, even taking them into their own homes.
These are real people, they are your neighbors and friends, they are us.
This is not a job for them. This is a calling. They serve because they want to help. They want to make a difference. They serve with the heart of a servant.
On this day let's take a moment to appreciate and respect all members of the law enforcement community and their families, by putting a blue light in your window or on your front porch.
This is just not a sign of appreciation for law enforcement across this country, --- but a sign, a small symbol of unity for us all. We need that here in our nation more than ever.
Help us remember that we are one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
I am a big James Brown fan and I really like the way he puts it in a not so well known song from the 60's about America. He says ..."America is the greatest country in the world…Now black and white they may fight, but when the enemy comes we get together and run ‘em out of sight.”
Mr. Speaker the enemy is here and its name is hate. I say we take James Brown’s advice, let’s get together and run it out of sight.”
As you enjoy your weekend with your family, please remember that behind the scenes there are countless men and women making great sacrifices to make sure you can walk in the park with your children or enjoy an afternoon at a museum knowing you will be safe. And when you see these public servants, remember, there is never a bad day to say thank you.