Home News Speeches Working Together In Unity To Protect Our Communities
  • Cassandra M. Chandler
  • Assistant Director, Office of Public Affairs
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Phoenix Citizens Academy Graduation
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • April 13, 2005

Good evening. Let me begin by thanking Larry King, who was instrumental in getting me here. My thanks also to SAC Monroe and the Phoenix Field Office for the invitation to join you tonight. I am honored to be a part of your graduation, particularly here in Phoenix, where the Citizens Academy program got its start.

I understand there are many disciples of Jim Ahearn in the audience. Jim was the former Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Office, and the man who started the Citizens Academy here in Phoenix. We're glad you are here celebrating with us tonight. My thanks also to the Phoenix Police Department. They gave us the concept of the Citizens Academy, and we ran with it.

I want to thank all of you for the time and effort you have contributed to this class. For two months, you shifted priorities and sacrificed free time to learn more about the FBI. You could have gone to the movies, read a few chapters in your favorite book, or just sat back on the couch after a tough day. But you didn't.

Instead, you spent your time with us, every Thursday night, for eight weeks. You skipped the movie to watch the SWAT team in action. You traded your favorite novel for safety goggles and a shotgun, and you've got the bruises to prove it. You left the couch to 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. Today, we're seeing organized crime enterprises launder money for drug groups. Drug groups possibly selling weapons to terrorists. Terrorists committing white collar crime to fund their operations. All of them exploiting technology for criminal purposes.

Let's face it: the days of the G-Men tearing down the road in hot pursuit of a bank robber or a gangster are long gone. Terrorism, technology, and homeland security are now a part of our daily vocabulary.

The playing field has changed--and changed dramatically. The good news is, so has the FBI.

Years ago, law enforcement and intelligence agencies had a tendency to work alone, keeping information and expertise to themselves. Businesses, communities, and citizens stood on the sidelines--concerned, but remote from the work of law enforcement.

The 9/11 attacks taught us all a painful lesson: we cannot defeat our enemies standing alone. Rather, we have had to find new ways of doing things to defeat today's sophisticated criminal and terrorist networks, like changing the way we function within the FBI and formulating new opportunities for sharing information and working together with others, like you.

I want to talk for just a moment about the idea of form and function working together. Being here in Phoenix makes me think of world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed and built beautiful buildings in Scottsdale and around the country. Wright was an architectural pioneer who believed that form and function should work in tandem with each other. That man-made structures should complement the surrounding natural landscape, and that everything, form and function, should work together in unity.

This principle of form and function working together in unity is one that we in the FBI are putting into practice every day.

We are collaborating with new partners in new ways. We are working with our international counterparts and with cops on the local beat. We are coordinating with leaders in the intelligence community and leaders in your community. We are sharing information, technology, and investigative techniques with law enforcement agencies across the country and around the world. We are working with businesses and schools and civic organizations and individuals like you every day to prevent crime and to prevent the next terrorist attack. We have come together as one team, with one motivation--protecting our nation, our communities, and our children.

In short, we have changed our form and our function--to work together in unity, not just with our law enforcement and intelligence partners, but also with you--the citizens we have sworn to protect.

The Citizens Academy is one of the greatest examples of how we have come 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. You are helping to dispel some of the myths surrounding the FBI. Now you know that we are not "men in dark suits who come to get you in the middle of the night," as I've learned one of your classmates said. We are men and women, of all races and ages, working--everyday--to protect you.

By working with us, you have improved our ability to protect you, and you have made Phoenix a safer place to live.

Earlier I described how Frank Lloyd Wright designed his buildings, ensuring that form and function worked in unity with the building's surroundings. Let me go a step further.

Beyond the structure itself, Wright said that "the room within is the great fact about the building." He meant that greatness isn't defined just by the form and function of the building. It's the way the rooms inside flow together, how each room is used--these are the things that make a building great.

So imagine our nation as an enormous building. A great building. Now think of our schools, churches, and civic groups; our businesses, police departments and government agencies. These are the rooms of our building.

In these rooms, we come together for a common purpose--to protect our nation. We come together as a team: the FBI changing its form and function to fit the new structural realities of global crime and terrorism, and you--the leaders of the community we serve--changing, learning, and working with us...all of us flowing together to help build a safe nation.

You know, from my youngest days, I have always believed in the power of one. The power of one person to make a difference. But as I continue to witness the incredible coming together of law enforcement, the intelligence community, and other communities we serve, I have come to realize that the power of one also means something else. It stands for the power of unity.

Within that building we just imagined, we may come from different rooms. We may have different backgrounds, with different jobs and different roles in society.

But ultimately, we are one people with one mission: to ensure that our nation--this great building--will stand strong and secure, and that it will withstand the changing landscape of global crime and terrorism.

We have much to gain by working together in unity. And through participating in the Citizens Academy you have taken a great step in that direction. But remember, this is just the beginning.

Our team effort cannot stop after you leave this room tonight. You must continue to act as ambassadors for the FBI, helping your community understand the work we're doing. You must remain part of a larger community dedicated to protecting America. You must serve as the eyes and ears of law enforcement...as the everyday guardians of freedom, justice, and democracy.

The challenges we face are fierce. But standing together, we are a powerful network, a team that cannot be defeated.

Congratulations on your graduation. And may God bless you for your strength and for your willingness to work together with law enforcement building a nation that will stand secure 20...50...100 years from now. You know, whenever I think of you and your devotion to the Citizen's Academy, I will think of how my 15-year-old son would describe your support. He'd say, "I've got your back." And all of us in the FBI would reply, "Indeed you do, and we thank you."

 
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