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The Bravery Awards Investiture

Rideau Hall
Monday, June 16, 1997

The celebrated Helen Keller, who overcame the handicaps of blindness and deafness, once wrote that "there is plenty of courage among us for the abstract -- but not for the concrete."

I believe she meant that, ultimately, bravery defines itself in the doing.

In our minds, we all honour courage and valour as virtues. We try to make them standards for our own behaviour.

But we cannot know how we ourselves will respond until the test is upon us.

Today, we are gathered to honour 30 Canadians who met and passed that test.

Soon we will hear the citations for these decorations. They are epics of a special kind. The heroes and heroines of these stories did not act in the heat of battle, nor under the spur of a threat to their own survival.

Instead, they were leading their normal lives in a peaceful country, when the challenge appeared suddenly, and in deadly form.

The threat in every case was to others.

In every case courage meant choice -- whether to stand aside or to engage, whether to put oneself and safety first, or to risk it all.

You, whom we honour today, made that choice.

You went to the help of others in peril: people facing death by drowning, or by fire or by deadly weapons. You placed yourselves between them and danger. You made their peril your own.

I speak also to three persons who are not here today.

One, who saved a mother and her children, has since passed away. And two of them gave their lives in their effort to save others.

In desperate situations, there is never any guarantee that even the most heroic effort will succeed. You do the best you can, with all that you have.

There are people today who owe you their lives, because you risked your own. Their survival bears witness to your courage; their happiness is your gift; and for all of us, you are our pride.

It is true that bravery, like virtue, is its own reward. It is true that the proudest medal is one that each of you already wears -- the red badge of courage.

Nevertheless, it is fitting that Canadians should today recognize your contribution, formally and visibly.

Because whether or not your efforts succeeded, we are all richer for your heroism.

You have expressed in action the highest virtues of citizenship. You have given meaning to the values to which we all aspire, as individuals and as a country.

On behalf of your fellow Canadians, let me extend our thanks, our admiration, and our gratitude.

Updated: 1997-06-16
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