- Cassandra M. Chandler
- Assistant Director, Office of Public Affairs
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Citizens Academy Graduation
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- May 16, 2005
Good afternoon. Buenas tardes. Thank you for inviting me to the Island of Enchantment.
One day, an old Puerto Rican jibaro called his children together for a family meeting. He told each child to pick up a stick and to lay it down next to the stick of the sibling next to them. After each of the children had laid their sticks down, the old man scooped up the sticks and bound them together with twine.
He then challenged each child to break the bundle of sticks. Each one tried, but could not break the bundle of sticks apart. The jibaro then unwrapped the bundle, gave each child one stick, and challenged them to break the stick. Each child easily broke the single stick.
The jibaro said, "Now you see my meaning, my children. So long as you remain bound together and united, you are unbroken. You are a match for anything and anyone. But standing separately, you are defeated, destroyed."
I thought this fable was particularly appropriate for today's ceremony. As graduates of the Citizens Academy, you are now part of the FBI family. You are part of a global bundle--a worldwide team--bound together by a common goal: to keep our communities, our families, and our children safe. Standing alone, we might be broken. Bound together, we are unbeatable. Unidos, seremos invencibles.
I want to thank all of you for the time and effort you have contributed to this class. You are Puerto Rico's first Citizens Academy graduates. Congratulations. Felicitaciones. We are proud of you.
For two months, you have shifted priorities and sacrificed your free time to learn more about the FBI. You could have taken a walk on one of Puerto Rico's beautiful beaches, read a few chapters in your favorite book, or just sat back on the couch after a tough day. But you did not.
Instead, you spent your time with us, every Thursday night, for seven weeks. You skipped that stroll on the beach to watch the SWAT team in action. You traded your favorite novel for safety goggles and a Tommy gun. You left the couch to watch the Evidence Response Team collect crime scene evidence. You asked to be informed about the FBI, and we did our best to "demystify" our day-to-day work, to help you understand what we're doing to keep America safe.
One of the things you have learned over the past eight weeks is that our jobs have become more challenging as crime has become more complex, more sophisticated, and more dangerous. Jet travel, cell phones, and the Internet have given criminal and terrorist threats an international dimension. And these threats are converging in ways we have not seen before. The lines between traditional organized crime, cyber crime, espionage, and terrorism have not just blurred…they have disappeared.
Unfortunately, businesses and communities are often the targets of these threats. To Al Qaeda, damage to a company or a local community is merely one way to hurt our economy and weaken America's resolve. To them, stealing a person's identity or a company's trade secrets is simply a means to fund the next terrorist attack.
The fact is, the playing field has changed--and changed dramatically. The good news is, so has the FBI. And so have you.
Years ago, law enforcement and intelligence agencies had a tendency to work alone, keeping some information and expertise to themselves. Businesses, communities, and citizens stood on the sidelines--concerned, but remote from the day-to-day work of law enforcement.
Those days are gone. The September 11th attacks taught us all a painful lesson: we cannot defeat our enemies standing alone. The only way to defeat today's criminal and terrorist threats is by coming together and working together.
In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, law enforcement, firefighters, and the community did come together…responded together.
Remember, it was members of law enforcement, firefighters, and community workers who courageously helped those who escaped burning buildings and who comforted one another in the last moments of their lives. It was law enforcement, firefighters, and the community who rushed to the scene to aid strangers.
It was law enforcement, firefighters, and community workers who put in hour after hour, day after day, to rescue survivors and recover remains.
And it was law enforcement officers from many different agencies, large and small, around the world, who tirelessly worked to piece together the puzzle of America's most horrific crime.
In September 2003, the managing editor of a Romanian newspaper wrote an editorial entitled "Ode to America," in which he looked back on the events of September 11th.
He said, "The American tragedy turned 300-million people into a hand put on the heart. Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the army, the secret service….Nobody rushed to empty their bank accounts. Nobody rushed on the streets nearby to gape about.
The Americans volunteered to donate blood and to give a helping hand. After the first moments of panic, they raised the flag on the smoking ruins, putting on T-shirts, caps and ties in the colors of the national flag. They placed flags on buildings and cars…[and] on every occasion they started singing their traditional song: "God Bless America!"….The Americans' solidarity of spirit turned them into a choir. Actually, choir is not the word. What you could hear was the heavy artillery of the American soul."
On September 11th, a small gang of terrorist thugs tried to convince us that we were weak. They wanted to make us afraid--they wanted us to fall apart. Instead, they showed us how strong we truly are.
September 11th forced us to open our eyes anew to the world around us. The world did not change the moment that planes became missiles; we changed. We became acutely aware of the circumstances, influences, and players around the world who threaten our national security. We also became acutely aware of the power of partnerships, of unity, of family, of being bound together.
Today, we are sharing information, technology, and investigative techniques with law enforcement and intelligence agencies across the country and around the world. We are tearing down the walls that once divided us. We are collaborating with new partners in new ways.
We are working with businesses and civic organizations and individuals like you every day to address your concerns and to tell you what we are doing to protect you.
In the past three years, we have been bound together as one team. Law enforcement; federal, state, and local governments; business; communities; and individuals--working together.
This Citizens Academy is a great example of coming together as a team. Through this academy, you are helping us to build stronger citizen commitment and community support. You are helping to build a bridge between law enforcement and the community. By working with us, you have improved our ability to protect you, and you have made San Juan a safer place to live.
Last night, I listened for the sounds of the coquis. I know that these tiny tree frogs are one of Puerto Rico's national symbols, and I wanted to enjoy a little night music.
I started to think about the coquis and the effect they have on residents and visitors alike. One coqui, alone, produces a beautiful sound, but it is faint, and difficult to hear unless you're standing nearby. Ten coquis, together, produce the same beautiful sound, but the effect is multiplied, more far-reaching. Think of one hundred coquis…an entire choir…singing together throughout the night. Think of the far-reaching effect of their music on the people who would stop to listen.
We can look at our partnerships in the same way. One person, one law enforcement or intelligence agency, one community group standing alone to fight crime and terrorism can be powerful. But all of us standing together--bound together as a family--intelligence agencies; federal, local, and international police officers; business and community leaders; school teachers and parents--WE are a force to be reckoned with.
As graduates of the Citizens Academy, you have joined the FBI family. But remember, this is just the beginning. Our team effort cannot stop after you leave this room. You must continue to act as ambassadors for the FBI, helping your community understand the work we're doing. You must serve as the eyes and ears of law enforcement…as the everyday guardians of freedom, justice, and democracy.
Without family, we are just that one lone stick, easily broken. Together, we are that bundle of sticks that cannot be broken. A team that cannot be divided. Together, we are a global family that is strong, unbending, unbreakable.
Bound together, we are unbeatable. Unidos, seremos invencibles.
Congratulations, and welcome to the FBI family.