US President Joe Biden honored 12 law enforcement officials at the White House on Friday, January 6, on the two year-anniversary of the US Capitol attacks.
Recipients were awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal – the nation’s second-highest civilian award – for their heroism and “exemplary deeds of service” on the day of the attacks.
Footage released by the White House shows Biden presenting the medals to recipients on Friday afternoon.
“I thank you all for your service, your strength and – as corny as it is to say – for your patriotism,” Biden said during the ceremony.
In an official statement, US Vice President Kamala Harris described the Capitol riots as a "violent assault.
“Armed with deadly weapons and animated by lies and hate, insurrectionists invaded the United States Capitol in an attempt to overturn a lawful election and silence the voice of the people,” Harris said.
“Because of the bravery of our law enforcement officers and the resolve of the people’s representatives, this assault on our democracy failed,” she added.
The recipients included Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman and the late Brian Sicknick, among others. Credit: The White House via Storyful
JOE BIDEN: Thank you all. Thank you all very, very much. Two years ago, on January the 6th, our democracy was attacked. There's no other way of saying it.
The US Capitol was breached, which had never happened before in the history of the United States of America, even during the Civil War. A violent mob of insurrectionists assaulted law enforcement, vandalized sacred halls, hunted down elected officials, all for the purpose of attempt to overthrow the will of the people and usurp the peaceful transfer of power. All of it, all of it, was fueled by lies about the 2020 election.
But on this day, two years ago, our democracy held because we, the people, as the Constitution refers to us, we, the people, did not flinch. We, the people, endured. We, the people, prevailed. And on this day of remembrance, joined by 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 the 6th, 2021.
For the first time in my presidency, I'm bestowing the Presidential Citizen's Medal, one of our nation's highest civilian honors. It recognizes, quote, "citizens of the United States of America who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens," end of quote. In a few moments, in a few moments, the full citation of their exemplary deeds will be read by a military aide, but this is who these people, these extraordinary Americans, are.
Heroic law enforcement officers, as Congressman Benny Thompson said, a man of immense character and honor himself, eloquently said about these officers. He said, quote, "you held the line that day, and what was on the line was our democracy, and history will remember your names." And history will remember your names.
It will remember your courage. It will remember your bravery. It will remember your extraordinary commitments to your fellow Americans.
That's not hyperbole. That's a fact. That's a fact.
And, folks, history is also going to remember your instincts to respond, to do something, as you did. And as we all watched, this is the irony of it all. All America watched it. Watched it on television, saw it repeated and repeated.
In the past months, we've heard you testify to the nation about what happened that day, what you were thinking of, at the time, was happening, what you're thinking now, the threats, the violence, the savageness of what happened, the trauma, all real. And it's not exaggeration to say America owes you, owes you all, I really mean this, a debt, a debt of gratitude, one we can never fully repay unless we live up to what you did, live up to what you did.
And what you did was truly consequential. Not a joke. If I can halt for a second and just say to you, the impact, what happened on July the 6th, had international repercussions beyond what I think any of you can fully understand.
The first meeting I had of what they call the G7, the seven leading economies in the world, democracies, I sat down. It was in February. It was in England. When I sat next to the President of France across from the chancellor from Germany, et cetera, and I said America's back.
Know what the response was? Not a joke. "For how long?" For how long?
And I just sat there and looked, and I believe it was the prime minister of Italy, who said, but I can't remember for certain which of the seven-- six said it. Said, what would you think, Mr. President, if, tomorrow, you woke up, and you had a headline in the press saying that, in the British Parliament, a mob had come down the hall, broken down the doors of the House of Commons, police officers were killed or died, the place was vandalized in order to overthrow the election of a Speaker of the House-- a prime minister's election?
Think about it. Think about it. What would we think if we heard that news today if any other leading democracy in the world went through this?
So, folks, these people, and the people representing those who couldn't be here because they gave their lives for this, did is incredibly consequential. That's not political talk. That's historical fact.
Officer Daniel Hodges, Metropolitan Police department, Virginia national guardsmen, eight years. Eight years on the beat. His first time inside the Capitol was on January the 6th. He was sprayed with poison, pinned, and crushed. Eye almost gouged out, but he didn't break.
After it was over, he was asked what he'd been fighting for. This is a local guy, an ordinary American, and he gave a simple, straightforward answer. What were you fighting for? His spontaneous answer was "democracy."
That's what he knew he was fighting for. He wasn't a scholar. He wasn't a historian. He was a red blooded American. He was fighting for democracy.
Former Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone, become friends. I've come to know him more. 20 years in the job, a veterans narcotics investigator.
At a moment of crisis, he was asked to do undercover work elsewhere, but he answered the crisis call of our nation at the Capitol. You answered, Michael. You always did.
He was beaten. Beaten, not pushed around. Beaten, and he was tased. Called a traitor as the mob shouted, if you remember, kill him with his own gun. Kill him with his own gun.
But he defended our democracy with absolute courage, and ever since, he's spoken out forcefully to make sure people are held accountable because he knows it could happen again. There's no guarantees except us, all of you.
Private first class Harry Dunn from the United States Capitol Police, 14 years on the force. On that day he was outside Speaker Pelosi's office. He stood guard protecting fellow officers who were already injured.
He was fighting back insurrectionists across the Capitol while being called the vilest, racist names. His own Congressman, a true constitutional scholar, Jamie Raskin, who couldn't be here today as he recovers from cancer treatments, but he wanted me to say the following, and I wrote it down.
"Officer Harry Dunn acted with remarkable courage and valor to defend both our institutions and our people. Went on to say, generations to come will think of him and these officers and thank them for their service," end of quote.
Officer Carl Edwards, five years on the force, US Capitol Police. On the front lines of the mob's first surge, as she stood there, she said-- and I hope I'm correctly quoting you. You said, it looked like a movie. Looked like a movie. Sometimes, in crisis, things look surreal. Looked like a movie. Knocked unconscious with traumatic brain injury. She got back up to help hold the line. The granddaughter of two proud military veterans, she says, it was her job to, quote, "protect America's symbol of democracy," end of quote, that building.
Sergeant Aki-- excuse me.
JOE BIDEN: Akinino. Thank you, pal. I'm glad you know your name.
[LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE]
He can call me President "Bidden" from now on if he wants. A proud immigrant from the Dominican Republic. 16 years in the force. Like my son, an Iraqi war veteran with the United States military, the United States Army, who described January 6 as something from a medieval battle.
Trying to keep insurrections from entering the tunnel entrance on the Lower West Terrace as he got punched, blinded with a laser, speared with an American flagpole with the American flag on it, the flag he swore to defend. He stood tall in the breach with a deep and abiding love demonstrated for his country.
Officer Eugene Goodman, an Army veteran who put himself at risk as a rifle squad leader conducting combat patrols to identify explosives in Baghdad. He came home. He came home to guard the US Capitol for the last 15 years.
On January 6, he risked his own safety to distract a charging group of insurrectionists. He said his duty is to serve and protect, and he said that day, just doing part-- he was protecting, and he did. He protected.
To all of you, I know this honor is bittersweet. On that day, more than 140 law enforcement officials suffered physical injuries, and untold numbers are suffering from psychological toll of that day as well. PTSD doesn't only occur in a military battlefield. Others are gone forever.
And I said earlier, if I can hold a minute here, I said earlier, you know, for those who lost someone on that day, they're proud as the devil that their kin are being honored, but boy is it hard. I know how proud I am when my son Beau is honored on the anniversary of his death as a consequence of burn pits in Iraq, but brings everything back, like it happened that moment.
So to all the families here, all the families who have lost someone, my heart aches for you, and I want to thank you for having the courage to be here today. So the rest of America can know what your kin did, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who will be receiving this medal posthumously.
A veteran of the New Jersey Air National Guard, 13 years of the Capitol Police force as an officer. He lost his life after protecting the citadel of democracy. We're joined by his family today, whom my wife Jill and I met when we paid our respects at the Capitol rotunda two years ago.
I know you're proud of the honor being bestowed on Brian, but I also know this difficult moment because it brings back everything as if it happened this very day. But thank you for being here, and thank you for letting us remember Brian. Thank you.
Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood is receiving this medal posthumously. Howard's dad was a good friend of mine. I served with his dad. His dad was Sergeant at Arms in the United States Senate, chief of staff for Republican senators. We were genuinely friends.
Officer Liebengood patrolled the grounds outside the Senate office building on January 6. He worked nearly nonstop in the days that followed. He lost his life after protecting the Democratic institutions he learned to revere growing up.
His family, his widow Serena, they're here today. Serena has honored Howard's memory by advocating for, quote, "positive change on mental health issues for his fellow law enforcement officers and other reform." Help them cope with the crises they encounter.
Metropolitan Police officer, department officer Jeffrey Smith, he'll be receiving this medal posthumously as well. He was part of the first line of officers who entered when the Capitol was breached. Assaulted many times, the last time with a metal pipe.
After his death, his widow, along with Erin-- his widow Erin along with many others worked tirelessly to pay-- to pass, in the Congress, the Public Safety Officer Support Act, which I signed into law last summer. The law recognizes death by silent injury like Officer Smith's and Officer Liebengood, so future families of public safety officers who die in the wake of traumatic circumstances will get the benefits they deserve. It's long overdue.
Today is a ceremony to honor heroes of January 6. We also recognize late US Capitol Police officer Billy Evans. His family is with us today. Three months after January 6, while they were still cordoning off the capital because threats by these sick insurrectionists continue to be propagated on the internet.
Again, all America saw what happened when officer Evans was killed defending a checkpoint you'd had to go through to get up to the Capitol because of these god awful sick threats that continue to move forward, and the whole world saw it. It's just hard to believe. It's hard to believe it could happen here in America.
When I was a 29-year-old kid, got elected to the Senate, came down here to be sworn in after I was 30, the idea--
[MUFFLED SPEAKING IN BACKGROUND]
That, if you told me--
[MUFFLED SPEAKING IN BACKGROUND]
That I could hear my own voice--
I would be amazed. But all kidding aside, think about it. Think about this. Jill and I also met the family at the rotunda to pay our respects, and I was honored to sign into law a bill awarding the Congressional Medal, gold medal, to those who protect the Capitol on January 6 and to honor Officer Sicknick, Evans, Liebengood, Smith for they're sacrifices. These officers are the best among us.
And we're also honored to be joined by many other members of the various law enforcement agencies here today, and who were here on that January 6. We thank all of them as well.
Want to thank you all for your service, your strength, your courage, and I know it's a corny thing to say, but your patriotism. Joining these law enforcement officers honorees are five other public servants, Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss. Where are you guys-- sitting-- There, right in the middle.
They were election workers from Atlanta, Georgia. Ruby, who for years, has taken time away from running her own business to work on election season to honor voting rights as a heritage in their beloved city. Her daughter, Shaye, who learned from her grandma how older generations of her family fought so hard to even get the right to vote. So Shaye decided to become a full time election worker to help the elderly and disabled and students exercise their fundamental right to vote.
Both of them were just doing their jobs until they were targeted and threatened by the same predators and peddlers of lies that would fuel the insurrection. They were literally forced from their homes, facing despicable, racist taunts. But despite it all, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss found the courage to testify openly and honestly to the whole country and the world about their experiences, set the record straight about 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. Presumptuous of me, but I'm so proud of you both. So proud of you both.
Albert Schmidt a former Republican city commissioner in Philadelphia, who spent a decade overseeing non-partisan counting of votes, but like so many other local election workers in 2020, he was harassed and threatened as he did his job faithfully. He did not bend. He did not bow he did not yield to the political threats and pressure.
And he's so trusted by both political parties that the new Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, appointed him as Pennsylvania's Secretary of State, a Republican, to ensure the integrity of the elections. That's a high compliment. His character and his commitment speak volumes of we, the people.
That's what we also see in Jocelyn Benson, twice elected Michigan Secretary of State to protect the sacred right to vote and have that vote counted fairly. That's what she did in 2020 when she oversaw a record number of Michiganders turn out to vote in that election only to find an armed mob, an armed mob, outside of her home on Christmas Eve, when she and her son were decorating their Christmas tree inside.
But she refused to back down. She'd done her duty she had 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.
And finally, Rusty Bowers, a former Republican Speaker of the House in the state of Arizona. When I met him today, I said I hope I'm not hurting your reputation. Where are you Rusty? He's hiding behind you. He's able to do that.
Rusty, we may not agree on all things. We agree on what this country is about, though. We agree that public service is not without-- it's not about what you're willing to do to win. It's about what you're willing to lose over, what you're willing to lose over.
Rusty put his obligation to the Constitution of this country ahead of everything when he refused intense political pressure to decertify the 2020 election results. His courage is probably the reason why he's lost his primary last year. Rusty, you're an example, as a demonstration, to every young man and woman thinking about entering politics, about what integrity, what integrity is all about.
I'm not exaggerating. Thank you. Thank you for your integrity and your honor.
So, folks, my fellow Americans, I want you to give one round of applause again for today's recipients of the presidential citizens medal, patriots who have performed exemplary deeds in the service of this great nation. And let me close with this. 82 years ago, on this very day in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered a State of the Union address that became known as his famous Four Freedoms speech.
As he defined America's place in the world, he reminded the American people of, quote, "the strength from the things which have been done to make his people conscious of their individual stake in the preservation of Democratic life in America, things that have toughened the fiber of our people, renewed their faith, and strengthened their devotion to the institutions we make ready to protect," end of quote.
80 years ago, after that speech on this day, two years ago, we were reminded about the most fundamental of things-- democracy itself. As I've said before, we face an inflection point in our nation's history, on January 6, as a reminder that there's nothing guaranteed about our democracy. I remember learning in undergraduate school, high school, that every generation's required to earn it, defend it, protect it.
I was a Senator for a long time. I was Vice President, then President, and I have to tell you, I began to think, looking back on it, that it was just permanent in the United States. It just was eternal. Nothing would happen.
That's why I was so pleased to see Democrats and Republicans work together to pass the Electoral Count Reform Act that I just signed into law 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 of opinion, we must say clearly, with a united voice, that there's no place, none, zero, zero place in America for voter intimidation, zero, never, and political violence. They're completely contrary to the notion of democracy.
America's a land of laws and not chaos, a nation of peace and not violence. We're not a land of kings and dictators, autocrats and extremists. As we see in today's honorees, we're a nation of we, the people, that toughened our fiber, renew our faith, and strengthen our cause.
Just remember who in God's name we are. We're the United States of America, not a joke. We're the United States of America, and there's nothing-- there is nothing, there has never been a single thing we've set our mind to that we've failed to accomplish.
There's nothing beyond our capacity if we act together. Remember who in God's name we are. So God bless you all, and may God protect our troops, and may God protect those who stand watch over our democracy.
I now have the opportunity and the great honor to award the medals to these incredible individuals and their representatives. Lieutenant Commander Shields, would you come and please read the citations?
- The presidential citizen's medal recipients-- Jocelyn Benson.
Jocelyn Benson was elected twice by the people of Michigan as their Secretary of State, where she continues her steadfast commitment to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections in the state of Michigan. In 2020, she administered an election with record turnout and certified the results in the face of unprecedented pressure and threats, including armed protesters outside her home. We, the people, honor the undaunted and unflinching Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who continues her exemplary public service to advance free and fair elections in our nation.
An artist, rancher, and fourth generation Arizonan, Rusty Bowers represented the people of Arizona for almost two decades, rising to become Speaker of the House. In a dire hour of our democracy, he put country before party by refusing attempts to decertify the 2020 election and overturn the will of the people. He endured menacing protests, including at his home, and eventually lost an election because of his courageous actions. We, the people, honor Rusty Bowers, a public servant guided by a deep faith and unbreakable oath to God, family, and country.
A champion college football lineman, Harry Dunn has put his protective instincts to a higher purpose as a US Capitol Police Officer. On January 6, 2021, he rushed to protect injured fellow officers fighting back insurrectionists. His powerful testimony describing violence and stinging racism laid bare the day's facts for history, and his advocacy on behalf of officers battling lasting trauma is helping to ease the stigma around mental health in our nation. For defending the citadel of our democracy, and for seeking truth and healing, we, the people, honor US Capitol Police Private First Class Harry A Dunn.
The granddaughter of proud military veterans, Caroline Edwards left a corporate career to follow in their footsteps serving our nation. On January 6, 2021, she helped stop advancing insurrectionists even after being knocked unconscious in the mob's first brutal surge. She has also fought for colleagues as a police union board member and peer counselor, and her congressional testimony will help ensure their valor is never forgotten. For her courageous defense of our democracy and service to fellow officers, we, the people, honor US Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards.
The grandson of a police officer, Michael Fanone was born to protect and serve. A decorated narcotics investigator, he took an off duty call to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, helping to drive insurrectionists away from a key tunnel and facing vicious attack. He immediately became one of the day's most outspoken truth seekers. For his absolute courage in protecting the Capitol and our democracy, and his tenacious search for accountability, we, the people, honor former Metropolitan Police department officer Michael Fanone.
Inspired by the Voting Rights legacy of her beloved Atlanta, Lady Ruby Freeman viewed her civic duty as a Fulton County election worker as a sacred mission to ensure the people of Georgia could exercise their fundamental right to vote freely and fairly. In the 2020 election, she upheld that sacred mission despite an orchestrated campaign to overturn the election and that targeted and threatened her and her family. To the nation, she bore witness of the trauma and tragedy of that experience, and today, we, the people, honor Lady Ruby Freeman as part of our nation's voting rights history.
As a child, Aquilino Gonell immigrated to America from the Dominican Republic. He became the first in his family to graduate college, serving in the US Army, and then in the US Capitol Police. On January 6, 2021, he courageously stood firm at the doors of the Capitol as insurrectionists stormed the entrance, sustaining serious injuries as he protected members of Congress and defended our democracy.
He later testified publicly to ensure our nation and history never forget. For patriotism that puts love of country before self, we, the people, honor US Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino A Gonell.
An army combat veteran and a US Capitol Police Officer, Eugene Goodman embodies fearless public service. In the breach on January 6, 2021, he made himself a target to divert insurrectionists away from the Senate chamber, enabling the former Vice President, lawmakers, and staff to escape safely. In the face of a clear and present danger, he did his duty, and he did not flinch. For his valor, and for ensuring the constitutional order, we, the people, honor US Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman.
A Virginia National Guardsman and Metropolitan Police Department officer, Daniel Hodges has dedicated his life to serving his community and our nation. On January 6, 2021, he fought to push surging insurrectionists away from a key tunnel into the Capitol, returning to the line even after being brutally crushed and beaten. His courageous testimony will help ensure that we never forget or let such an attack happen again. For his heroism and unwavering commitment to the truth, we the people honor Metropolitan Police Department officer Daniel Hodges.
Dr. Serena Liebengood, accepting on behalf of Howard Liebengood.
The proud son of a US Senate Sergeant at Arms, Howard Liebengood left a career as a champion race car driver to follow in his late father's footsteps, protecting the Democratic institutions they both revered. He died after battling insurrectionists at the Capitol and staying on to restore security in the crucial days after January 6. His painful loss helped change the law to better honor the unimaginable sacrifice that too many officers and their families face. For his deep dedication and selfless service, we, the people, honor US Capitol Police officer Howard C Liebengood.
Wandrea or Shaye Moss.
Inspired by the stories her mother told her about the movement for voting rights in America, Shaye Moss pursued a career as an election worker in Fulton County, Georgia. Because of her dedicated service, she faced death threats, harassment, and intimidation by those seeking to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election. She would later testify to the nation about her pain and resolve. Today, we, the people, honor Shaye Moss for helping to ensure the American people have a voice in the destiny of our nation.
A former federal civil servant and the city commissioner of Philadelphia, Albert Schmidt has spent his career on the unsung yet necessary task of making democracy work for the people. In the 2020 election, despite intense political pressure, he did what he had always done-- ensured the integrity of the election and faithfully oversaw the non-partisan counting of the ballots. We, the people, honor Albert Schmidt for his clarity of purpose to protect every American's sacred right to vote and to have that vote counted.
Charles and Gladys Sicknick, accepting on behalf of Brian D Sicknick.
A New Jersey Air National Guardsman who served two tours overseas, Brian Sicknick was a US Capitol Police officer devoted to serving our nation. For over a decade, he guarded the Capitol, including on January 6, 2021. He lost his life protecting our elected representatives, upholding the will of the American people, and defending our Constitution.
His heroism, courage, and character set an example for generations of Americans to come, and will never be forgotten. For his service and his ultimate sacrifice, we, the people, honor US Capitol Police officer Brian D Sicknick.
Aaron Smith, accepting on behalf of Jeffrey L Smith.
A 12 year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, Officer Jeffrey Smith dedicated his life to public service. On January 6, 2021, as he fought the violent mob, Officer Smith sustained devastating head injuries from multiple assaults inside and outside the Capitol.
He died after protecting Congress, guarding the Capitol, and preserving our democracy. His passing sparked changes in the law that honor the silent injuries of our fallen officers. For his extraordinary heroism, pure courage, and unwavering devotion to the nation, we, the people, honor Metropolitan Police department officer Jeffrey L. Smith.
JOE BIDEN: Well, as I said at the outset, this is warranted, in some senses, overdue, but also incredibly difficult for the families, and particularly the families of those who lost a hero defending our democracy. And-- but I tell you, people who will go through unfortunately similar losses are going to look at y'all and say that's the grace and dignity that I want to display. So really, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Want to thank you again for your service and sacrifice, and may God bless your families. May God protect our troops. Thank you all very much.
- Please remain in your seats as the President [INAUDIBLE].