The Significance of Personal Character
By Richard D. Thomas
It is an honor to join with you in celebrating such a notable career event as this graduation from a long and demanding police academy. It is appropriate that we take a moment to reflect on the hard work and sacrifice that it takes to complete such a course of instruction. It bears mentioning here that the hard work was borne not only by the students but by their families. Through the years, it has become very apparent to me that a key element for most of us in law enforcement, if we wish to have a productive and satisfying career, is a supportive and understanding family. I commend you for the support you have and will continue to provide to these graduates in those difficult times that inevitably will lie ahead. The graduates themselves are justifiably proud of what they have accomplished, as they should be, and all should take this time to bask in the warmth of their success.
Upon reflecting on what success really is, a noted 19th century writer, Elbert Hubbard, once remarked, “All success consists in this: You are doing something for somebody—benefiting humanity—and the feeling of success comes from the consciousness of this.” For those who seek a life in public service, such success is a truly rewarding experience.
Invariably, when I ask young police applicants why they want to become an officer, they almost uniformly relate to me their desire to help others, to give something back to the community, and to stand up for those who cannot do so for themselves. These are, without a doubt, laudable motivations and exactly what a chief wants to hear. However, I suspect the thought of pursuit driving, playing with neat police gadgets, and breaking up bar fights also factors into their quest to become a police officer.
Notwithstanding the less mentioned and more exciting aspects of this particular vocation, I would like to take a moment to speak briefly to the graduates about that one special trait that will serve you well throughout your career and without which you never will be able to lay claim to a career worth mentioning in respectable company. By and large, those who seek to enter the ranks of law enforcement officers are people of good virtue with pure motives and an abiding sense of duty and honor. They tend to be caring and compassionate people, generally of above-average intelligence, and willing to face life’s challenges head-on.
Today, many of you are taking the beginning steps down what may be an exhilarating, often satisfying, yet, at times, frustrating and frequently difficult path of a law enforcement officer. The fact that you will face many difficulties and hardships should in no way dissuade you from pursuing this goal, for, as the poet William Cullen Bryant so eloquently stated, “Difficulty, my brethren, is the nurse of greatness—a harsh nurse who roughly rocks her foster children into strength and athletic proportion.” Could it be, I wonder, that your physical fitness instructors had this thought uppermost in their minds when they prepared for your fitness training? Was this a prominent theme in the minds of your self-defense instructors as they drilled you again and again on the more subtle but painful points of subject control?