By Rudy Perez
Blessed. That’s a powerful word to so many people. To some, it lifts their spirits in hard times. To others, it signifies the belief in a higher power. To me, it means everything, for I am blessed. I am blessed to be an American. I am blessed to be a police officer. I am blessed to be a leader. But, today, I am blessed to be a graduate of the FBI National Academy. I want to thank Director Wray for coming this morning and to welcome our distinguished guests.
In the time that we have been here at the National Academy, we have missed weddings, our families, and others who matter. However, we have also suffered losses that sit very close to the hearts of our session members. For the fallen heroes lost to agencies represented here in session 280, please stand while I read their names, and let us pause for a moment of silence.
- Trooper Ted Benda — Iowa State Troopers
- Inspector Gregory Gaddy — Federal Protective Service
- Lieutenant Kevin Stolinsky — La Vergne, Tennessee, Police Department
I made a solemn promise to this session to tell our story. Before I can do that, I need to tell you about a little boy living in desperate conditions, poor and hungry, forced to flee Guatemala with his family in the pursuit of a better life. That same boy fought adversity while he struggled to learn a new language and a different culture. The one thing that child took with him into manhood was that this country, America, is great and that freedom isn’t free. Those days were tough, but I thank God that he made it because that little boy stands here in front of you, blessed to not only be representing the outstanding law enforcement leaders in this session but the people I’ll call my friends for life.
Sergeant Adjutant Perez of the Los Angeles School District Police Department delivered this speech at the FBI National Academy Session 280 graduation on December 16, 2021, in Quantico, Virginia.
The men and women of session 280 have persevered through so much to be here. This session has been different than others. We were supposed to be here over a year ago, but the realities associated with COVID-19 delayed our class, then cancelled it, and eventually pushed us into 2021. Some of us packed and unpacked numerous times, hoping we would make it to the hallowed ground we stand upon today — this very place where so many of the greatest law enforcement professionals have stood. Today is the realization of a wonderful dream for so many who have survived so much in this profession, this calling to serve and protect.
I would be remiss not to mention the wonderful support all of us have received from our families, friends, and loved ones. I think it’s safe to say that our families have sacrificed the most for us to see this opportunity realized. For that, we collectively say thank you, we love you, and … we’re finally coming home.
Our class might be the smallest in recent history, but I can tell you these men and women serve with twice the heart of most. They come from our international partners, as far as the United Arab Emirates. They stretch from New York to Hawaii, from Alaska to Florida, and from Texas to Minnesota. We are also joined by 12 federal agencies, from the Department of Justice to the Department of Defense. We have 20 outstanding female law enforcement professionals in this class, spanning from California to Spain. Session 280 is not only far reaching but beautiful in how we all came here to be better together. In the first week, I knew our diversity would be our strength and our scars would be a light for others to follow.
The stories we’ve shared, the good and the bad, have brought us to tears at times. However, those tears have been met with understanding and a friend who knows the pain and sacrifices made. Those stories brought upon us profound moments that will guide us forward and make us stronger. It was no surprise to me, but for every tear, the smiles grew, and the sounds of laughter became our banner. There is real love here within this group, and the honor I feel standing among everyone is amazing.
Session 280 represents almost 2,000 years of collective law enforcement experience, and we intend on using what we’ve learned here to guide the next generation of police professionals. The wonderful instructors, counselors, and administrative staff of the National Academy have equipped us all with the tools we need for success. I can definitively say that this group, session 280, will leave here ready to forge a path with steadfast regard to our oaths of office, the law, and the public we are sworn to defend.
We are truly blessed in all that we have experienced here at the National Academy. We’ve traveled to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the battlefields of Gettysburg, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C. We have all taken away valuable knowledge, making us more mature and more inclusive leaders. So many of my classmates contributed to this journey, and some of them worked incredibly hard to make these trips a reality.
In Proverbs it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”1 I think that’s the essence of our 11-week journey here in Quantico. We have learned together and debated one another, but most important, we have laughed with each other. The friendships I’ve watched develop here are strong, and that in turn has strengthened our resolve and our desire to confront the challenges of tomorrow.
For my newfound brothers and sisters of session 280, I have told our story up until today. It is incumbent upon each of us, as we walk out the doors of this prestigious academy, to hold the line, not only for ourselves but for each other, our God, our nation, and the ones we love. Stay well, stay in touch, and remember, we are better together. Congratulations 280!
Sergeant Adjutant Perez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. On that same day, the FBI’s 279th National Academy (NA) class graduated. Some students chose to participate in the ceremony, while others and their families decided not to because of concerns over the virus. Unbeknownst to the FBI, it would be 19 months before the next NA session would begin.
NA Session 280 arrived at the FBI Academy on October 4, 2021, consisting of 128 students — approximately half the size of a typical NA class. The only class trained in 2021, session 280 alone had the privilege of experiencing the 40th anniversary of the Yellow Brick Road.
On January 3, 2022, the FBI excitedly welcomed session 281, consisting of 258 students. The FBI Academy and the National Academy Unit look forward to a successful future training law enforcement officers from around the world.
1 Prov. 27:17 (NLT).