April 27, 1983
Thank you, and, Mayor Koch -- and I thank him; he is the donor of that jacket which I'm very proud to have -- Commissioner McGuire, Senator D'Amato, Congressman Molinari, and James Wieghart, together with the residents of this great city, you're reminding all Americans of what is right and good about our people and our country.
My hat is off to New York and its police force for their dedicated and often thankless battle against crime. And I congratulate the New York Daily News for caring enough about its community that it sponsors the New York Crime Fighters Award program. I understand that more than $60,000 in those prize moneys that Mr. Wieghart mentioned have been given out so far, and that's quite an investment in our collective peace of mind.
By working together, the city and the Daily News are another example of how our public and private institutions can be made even more effective in improving the quality of our lives. But most of all, I want to thank these citizens here for -- they're everyday Americans -- thank them for their courage in unexpected circumstances and for their becoming heroes they were. You know, someone once said that a hero isn't braver than anyone else. He's just brave 5 minutes longer. [Laughter] I don't know whether that's the answer or not, but God bless them all.
And those who say we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look. They certainly haven't been flipping through the pages of the New York Daily News lately. I wish all our people could read, as I have, the accounts of your individual acts of heroism. In each case you seem to think you acted as anyone else would have in the same situation. And you spoke from your hearts about how we all depend on one another.
Alvin Torres said, "I just hope people will realize that we must all work together, citizens and police. If somebody needs help, we should try to help out. You've got to try.'' Well, when you read how the Torres brothers chased down a purse-snatcher wielding a knife; how Mrs. Keneally, a grandmother, collared a pickpocket by his neck scarf and gave him the back of her hand until the police arrived -- I liked the picture of that one more than anything -- [laughter] -- and how Rabbi Rosenfeld immobilized a mugger armed with a machete; you realize there's nothing very average about the average American.
Sometimes I've accused some of our political opponents of referring so much about the common man, and I prefer to think that most Americans are pretty uncommon. Here in New York's teeming streets and boroughs and in towns and cities across America, our people do care about each other. And they're ready to help. From cabbies to construction workers to youths to grandmothers and an airman from Brooklyn, the people of New York are leading the way in what has become a national citizens campaign to restore security to our streets and neighborhoods. Working with their local police, they're getting results.
Seeing men and women like yourselves here today in what some say is the busiest precinct in the county -- or in the country, I should say, I believe we can and we will rid ourselves of the fear that plagued us. I like to think, also, that we're not only going to rid ourselves of the fear; we're going to transfer that fear to where those skulking people who try to take advantage of their fellow citizens aren't going to just look around for the uniform. They're just going to look around and say, ``I can't trust these people anymore, can't trust them to go their own way and not take us on.''
Together we're working toward the day when law-abiding men and women can live in confidence and, as I say, only the criminals will be afraid.
On behalf of all Americans, I thank the New York Crime Fighters. I thank the Daily News and New York City. I'll tell your story wherever I go, because I know your courage will inspire others. In the meantime, your fellow citizens are grateful that you've made the world a little safer, a little more free, and filled with a great deal more hope.
I want to congratulate you on your awards and, again, thank you for your courage. God bless all of you, and thank all of you.
Note: The President spoke at 11:22 a.m. to the award winners and police department officers and guests at the Mid-town South Precinct Building. He was introduced by James Wieghart, editor of the New York Daily News, which sponsors the award program.