Presentation of Decorations for Bravery
Rideau Hall, Friday October 28, 2011
I am honoured to welcome you to Rideau Hall.
In preparation for today, I have been searching for an appropriate anecdote—a story, if you will—to illustrate what bravery is all about. And I found that I didn’t have to look further than your own.
For your stories exemplify the very essence of what it means to be brave.
They remind me that acts of bravery are not just reserved for the famous or the renowned, nor are they performed solely on epic battlefields or during legendary campaigns.
Instead, your stories confirm that acts of bravery often unfold in our own backyards, in our homes, at our places of work, in our cars, at the beach, or on familiar rivers, lakes and seas.
Acts of bravery are often carried out by men and women who may never have otherwise assumed they had what it took to be “brave.” Who may never have supposed they could act without a moment’s hesitation. Who may never have believed they could move ahead without a thought for themselves. And who may never have expected they could risk all they had, regardless of whether they were adequately trained, equipped or prepared.
Your stories have made me reflect on the source of such bravery. I asked myself, “From where does this kind of bravery, this moral courage, this desire to help another human being come?”
In a word, love. I am convinced that it comes from a deep-seated, sacrificial love that drives away fear.
A pure form of love that allows someone to look beyond his or her limitations, to remain on his or her guard, to stand firm, determined and composed, even in the midst of a crisis.
St. Augustine, a philosopher who lived in Northern Africa in the late 4th century, once wrote:
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.”
Your hands shielded the innocent, protecting them from evil attacks. They broke through doors and windows, and cut confining straps, releasing the trapped from danger.
Your feet charged into harm’s way, through flames and noxious fumes, pulling the injured and reluctant to safety. They ran into the water, kicking against currents, tides and ice floes to keep the sinking afloat.
Your eyes spotted the lost in the wilderness.
Your ears heard the desperate cries for help.
When nothing else mattered, when it was up to you and you alone, when you gathered every ounce of your courage, compassion and resolve, you displayed the most genuine form of love anyone could ever possibly demonstrate for someone else.
You were prepared to lay down your life for a friend, for a stranger. You were willing to give everything you had, so that someone else could have the chance to see another day.
On behalf of all Canadians, I commend your courage and honour your bravery.
As we go from here, I want you to know that we will never forget what you have done.
Indeed, your stories will continue to challenge us to do all we can to help others in need.
We will use your stories to inspire Canadians and show them what bravery is all about.
And we will use your stories to teach our children and grandchildren about the true meaning of love.