Notable Speech: Real Heroes
By Alaric J. Fox, J.D.
Major Fox serves with the Connecticut State Police as chief of staff in the Office of the Deputy Commissioner. He presented this speech to the 2011 recipients of the Police Officer of the Year Award from the Connecticut District Exchange Club.
Ladies and gentlemen, as trite as it may sound, it is an honor and a privilege to join you this evening as we collectively recognize this group of Connecticut’s finest officers. I am humbled by the opportunity to share my thoughts, as well as our collective appreciation and admiration for tonight’s honorees.
In his work Common Sense, author Thomas Paine wrote that “…the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly.” While Paine’s words were offered in the context of the sacrifices associated with the Revolutionary War, his meaning, of course, was that we value things in life more significantly if we have worked to achieve them and that if recognition comes too easily, we do not appreciate it is as we would have if we had worked for it.
Shortly tonight’s honorees will receive awards commemorating and memorializing their respective contributions to their communities and to our state. As the officers are called forth, I ask them to consider Paine’s words. These plaques and proclamations only symbolize the great triumphs the honorees have received in our noblest of professions. They merely are a token of the collective enthusiasm for the dedicated self-sacrifice and desire you have shown to make your town or city, our state, and our nation an ideal place in which to live and work—simply a better place. Do not view this evening’s recognition too cheaply. Please understand that we acknowledge that what you have done means so much more that what we can convey in a simple plaque or certificate.
…I proudly share with you that tonight’s award recipients and countless others like them who toil every day in virtual anonymity or, perhaps, even in obscurity are our true heroes.
As I reflect on a law enforcement career that has spanned 29 years and included service at the local, federal, and state levels and on my involvement in the representation of officers subject to civil litigation, I consider it natural to question whether I or we make a difference. To answer that question, I think of children in broken homes whom we have cared for and realize that we have saved lives, even if I cannot empirically prove this fact. I think of the cycles of domestic violence abuse that we have broken by removing batterers from homes and realize that we have saved lives, even if I cannot empirically prove this fact. I think of the thousands, the tens of thousands, of intoxicated drivers who we have taken off of Connecticut’s roadways and realize that we have saved lives, even if I cannot empirically prove this fact.
And, yes, I think of each of the individual actions of the troopers and police officers that join us here this evening, and I realize that you have saved lives, even if I cannot empirically prove this fact. We do not know who those victims or their families would have been. In some way, they do not even know who they would have been. But, the victims certainly are out there. You are to be commended, rightfully honored, and thanked by us for your efforts. My words, whether poorly described or eloquently articulated, offered on behalf of all of us here this evening cannot possibly capture in adequate fashion our amazement at the loss that you prevented and the heartache that you have saved.
We live in a world that employs the term hero far too loosely. We overuse it for movie stars, politicians, and professional athletes. And, while such individuals might have unique, singular abilities and while they might, on occasion, even engage in heroic efforts, they are not our true heroes. As the parents of a 9-year-old son and a rather precocious 11-year-old daughter, my wife and I strive to teach them well. Likewise, I proudly share with you that tonight’s award recipients and countless others like them who toil every day in virtual anonymity or, perhaps, even in obscurity are our true heroes.
Ladies and gentlemen, those before you have—
- demonstrated professionalism under the most trying of circumstances;
- embodied patience when others long since would have walked away;
- demonstrated humanity toward people who some might say deserved none; and
- shown dedication to duty as the clock ticked long past the end of their scheduled workdays and those of their family members (many are here this evening) who waited patiently at home.
Therefore, I am pleased to recognize you as the best of the best, those who have stood and said, “I can do that,” “I can give more,” or “I will walk in harm’s way.” This salute to our finest officers constitutes the best we have to offer.
Why is that? Surely, my fellow baseball fans in attendance know that young, amateur talent is judged primarily on the so-called five tools—batting for average, hitting for power, running bases with skill and speed, throwing well, and fielding ably. As it happens, a close friend of mine, a professional baseball scout, shares with me a sixth, rather underrated, attribute that teams assess—heart, spirit, and inner-core value and determination. He shares with me that, unfortunately, this trait cannot be measured with a stopwatch, tape measure, or radar gun; as a result, it is difficult to assess. Many baseball fans can imagine an entire team consisting of multiples of their favorite player. I see this trait of heart, spirit, inner-core value, and determination as the common characteristic in our profession, and I see it so profoundly represented among you here.
In closing, I share with you that while I was a young child, my father, a career Hartford, Connecticut, Police Officer, fashioned himself as an amateur historian and never missed an opportunity to perplex me or my younger brother with quotes far above our young, immature brains. He shared with me the following quote from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address in 1861: “Let us all appeal now to the better angels of our nature.” Although unprepared as a child to remotely grasp this phrase at that time, I understand it now. Lincoln asked all of us to do the right thing, even in the face of adversity—to step forward where others decline to tread. Ladies and gentlemen, tonight’s honorees have appealed to the better angels of their nature, and we are a better community because of it.
On behalf of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and especially the command staff of the Division of State Police, I wish to extend my heartfelt congratulations to tonight’s award recipients and countless others like them whose day-to-day efforts may be somewhat more mundane, yet no less noble, for their continuing efforts to keep Connecticut safe. I also offer my sincere thanks to the Connecticut District Exchange Club for their ongoing efforts to recognize and truly motivate law enforcement personnel from across our great state.