Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks at a regional Secretary’s Awards ceremony hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard in Boston, MA on August 24, 2023.
Good morning, thank you very much to Captain Brick … can you hear me OK in the back? Thank you for that kind introduction and for hosting us; thank you Janene for being our Master of Ceremonies; thank you all for being here.
Twenty years to the day after the Twin Towers fell, the New York City Police Department Counterterrorism Bureau presented me at Ground Zero with an American flag that had flown over the 9/11 Memorial that day. Upon receiving the flag, I directed that it be flown by our 27 different Agencies and Offices in locations across the world.
Earlier this year, the flag joined a piece of the twisted metal from the wreckage of the Twin Towers at DHS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Both items now rest in a place of honor; they are the first thing we see each morning and they are the last thing we see as we depart each day.
In the last two decades that separate these touchstones of our Department, we see our origins and our future.
This Department, our Department, was born of tragedy and necessity. Less than two years after 9/11, 22 agencies and 180,000 public servants came together. Many agencies were already established and widely respected – including the United States Coast Guard, our hosts today. That we were all able to come together under the DHS umbrella is a testament to our common, fundamental mission: to safeguard the American people and our way of life.
We have since evolved and grown together. We have attracted and retained the very best America has to offer to solve its greatest challenges. We are collaborating more closely than ever before. We are now a critical part of people’s lives – interacting with the American people on a daily basis more than any other department or agency in the federal government.
Today, like every day across the nation, Americans are in the skies and on the seas, traveling through our land ports, enjoying imported goods, protected from online and other criminal actors, rebuilding and recovering in the wake of natural disasters, relying on critical infrastructure, and so much more.
They are doing so safely because of the United States Department of Homeland Security – because of you and those who came before you over the past 20 years. This legacy is thanks to each and every one of you here today; it belongs to you, your families, loved ones, and your communities.
Twenty years later, we pay special tribute to those who came together to form the Department. These first dedicated public servants – our plank holders – are a shining example of the dedication and talent of the entire DHS workforce. 32,000 plank holders are still proudly serving the country at DHS and today we are honored to be joined by some of them. Would the plank holders in the audience please stand and be recognized.
Over 20% of our workforce are veterans who continue to serve their country through their work in our Department. Members of our armed forces who now work on the front lines in a different uniform, or who work in offices across the country and around the world and selflessly keep giving of themselves for the safety and security of others. Would the veterans here today please stand and be recognized.
All of us know very well that public service involves sacrifice, including, of course, the sacrifice of self – whether that be the missed vacations, the abandoned hobbies, or the loss of precious time with loved ones. It also includes the sacrifice of our families.
Nobody serves alone. When one serves, the family serves as well. Our families and loved ones deserve our admiration, our appreciation, and respect. They too sacrifice a great deal and face danger and hardship in the service of the American people. Would the family members and loved ones present today please stand and be recognized.
In 2002, President Bush urged Congress to create our Department, a community where, “Employees of this new agency will come to work every morning knowing their most important job is to protect their fellow citizens.” That is indeed what you have built throughout the past 20 years. You fulfill our mission every day amidst a dynamic and ever-evolving threat landscape.
You have built the United States Department of Homeland Security and your achievements are and continue to be remarkable.
I am honored to be here today to formally recognize some of these achievements.
This ceremony here in Boston is part of a series of award ceremonies we’ve held across the country to recognize and lift up what you – our extraordinary workforce – do day in and day out.
The accomplishments of our Department cannot be done without you, nor can they be achieved by any single person or team. In celebrating these deserving awardees, we recognize today; we also recognize what everyone does across DHS on behalf of the American people.
It is really the highlight of my life to support all of you and the extraordinary work that you perform. I’m very much looking forward to our award ceremony.
Thank you for everything that you do.