James B. Comey
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Special Agent Memorial Service, FBI Headquarters
Washington, D.C.
May 11, 2016

A Different Way to Be

Remarks as delivered.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It’s an honor to have you here, especially the families of our fallen.

I want to thank our partners in law enforcement at all levels for being here to mark this day with us.

I especially want to thank our Attorney General for being here. She is an extraordinary supporter not just of the FBI, but of law enforcement at all levels in this country, and we are lucky to have you.

I also want to especially thank our former Directors for being here. We have benefited from what you built and left us, and we have tried to be worthy of it, to protect it, and to even make it better. Thank you for service and for what you built for us.

A special thanks to the families for being here today. I want to start by just saying: I’m so sorry for your loss. I have come to believe, the older I get, that the notion of “closure” is a myth. There is no closure. There is always a hole in your heart. We are sorry for that hole, and we will do our absolute best to make sure you feel part of this family for the rest of your days—and that your children and your children’s children are part of this family. So we’re sorry, and we’re very glad you’re here today.

We do this for two reasons. First, we do it to thank those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the FBI and this country. And it’s important to thank them and their families. People don’t do this for the money. They do it because they want to be part of doing something with moral content. They do it at tremendous financial sacrifice; they do it at great personal risk. It’s very important for us to remember and to thank those who did that and paid the ultimate price for that decision to pursue service.

The second reason we do it is to model what service looks like. I worry very much—especially with a lot of controversy around law enforcement these days, and sometimes healthy skepticism becoming cynicism—that young men and women may be discouraged from pursuing this kind of service.

I have five children; my middle child is my son. He is about to join a police department after graduating from college. He’s doing it because he wants to help people. I worry very much—are young men and women making that same choice today at the rate we need them to? I don’t know. I think it’s something we all have to worry about. And as part of that worry, we need to make sure that we tell the world the kind of people who join this service career—the kind of people who decide, with full knowledge of the danger they face, to raise their hand, swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and then spend their life moving towards danger, towards pain, towards suffering.

That is a different way to be. But a whole lot of young people want to be part of that—if they’re able to see it clearly. So the second reason we do this today is to model for the world the kind of people who decide to be this way.

For those of you who are familiar with the Christian scriptural tradition, Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians, in which he said this: “Whatever is noble, whatever is just...whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Each of our fallen special agents was exactly that. They were noble; they were just; they were praiseworthy; they were excellent; they were admirable. And so today, and every day, we have to think about that, and think about them. We have to remember them. We have to honor them. We have to aspire to be worthy of their example, and to inspire other great people to try to be what they were.

Thank you for joining us here today to thank the people who have made such a tremendous sacrifice for this organization and this country—and also to demonstrate to the world what’s it like to be part of this.