Presentation of the Decorations for Bravery
Rideau Hall, Friday, April 20, 2012
Welcome, all of you brave men and women, to Rideau Hall.
Many of us are never given the opportunity to test ourselves, to react under intense pressure, to prove on an instinctual level that we are caring people.
But you here—all of you being presented with the Decorations for Bravery—have passed that test. You have shown that the most valuable thing in the world is another life. And although we mourn those who lost their own lives in service to others, they will live on in the memories of loved ones, and in the stories that we will tell and retell.
And what stories you have! Each is unique, yet each is a testament to your respect for life that compelled you to react instantly to a life-threatening situation. With little thought to your own well-being, you jumped in after drowning victims, plunged headlong into burning houses, searched through car wrecks, confronted armed assailants, and even grappled with a cougar!
These brave acts deserve to be remembered. These stories deserve to be passed on. Because, in these stories, we can see what caring, compassion and altruism look like distilled to their purest forms.
After all, what are stories if not a piece of us, a piece of who we are and who we want to be.
I have often spoken of Canada as a caring country. We give of our time and talents to help those in need. Often times, this is done on a conscious level. We think and plan how we are going to help and then we go out and do it. Our impetus for doing so is varied. Some of us act out of a sense of duty, some out of guilt, others out of the goodness of their hearts. It is never easy to decipher someone else’s motivation.
With you, the reasons are clear.
You acted on an unconscious level. No time to think. No time to weigh the pros and cons. No time to measure the consequences or the chances of success. You saw a life in danger. And you acted.
Your instinct was to care and to save. Your character stands revealed to us, and it is a portrait of the very best of the smart and caring Canadian.
As I have read and reread your citations—and those of others who have been awarded the Decorations for Bravery during my mandate—I have thought how inspiring it is to know that every day, in so many different ways, we are looking out for each other. We care about what happens to each other.
And the people who were saved? Their families and friends? We are grateful that they are still with us, that they have another opportunity to do good in this world, to contribute to our country’s future.
We read your stories and we imagine ourselves to be brave. You are brave. We imagine ourselves to be caring. You are caring. There can be no doubt.
After you leave here and go back home, remember this moment—the moment when the entire country applauded not only your actions, but also your character.
Caring, compassionate, boldness, decisiveness. This is your nature, your character. Thank you for looking out for others. Thank you for your bravery.