Christopher Wray
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Director’s Community Leadership Awards Ceremony, FBI Headquarters
Washington, D.C.
May 3, 2019

Honoring Those Who Put Community First

Remarks prepared for delivery.

Good morning, and welcome to FBI Headquarters. Thanks for being here. I’m honored to get this dedicated moment to pay tribute to your efforts in keeping our communities safe and strong.

I also want to welcome the family and friends who have joined us today. Your support and sacrifices help these remarkable people serve their fellow citizens.

As Director, I find myself getting asked a lot about my leadership philosophy, but pontificating about leadership isn’t really my style. I’m more about the doing. But in response, I’ll sometimes quote leaders I respect—everyone from General Stanley McChrystal to Coach Nick Saban: leaders who guide their teams—their troops—to success. Leaders who focus on the importance of the how, the process, the not-just-doing-the-right-thing but doing it in the right way. Leaders who encourage the very best in others.

These leaders may be facing extremely different challenges, but they do have a few things in common. Author Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, talks about how his team’s study revealed that the best leaders aren’t ambitious for themselves, but rather ambitious for the organization they’re a part of.

They put mission over ego. They put in the work. They’re not afraid to get their hands dirty and do the less glamorous jobs. They’re “plow horses,” not “show horses,” in the words of the book.

As I thought about this definition of leadership in the context of the people we honor here today, I realized your “organizations”—the ones you put before yourselves—are even bigger than any company or business. In a very real sense, your “organizations” are your communities—your fellow citizens.

Your mission is a commitment to serving your communities. You’re showing people kindness when they need it most. You’re defending those who need a voice. You’re making sure no one gets left behind. You’re helping keep your neighborhoods safe.

And you’re putting in the work. You’ve identified the toughest problems, and you haven’t waited for someone else to fix them. You’ve rolled up your sleeves and gotten your hands dirty.

You’re using your unique skills and backgrounds as translators, radio programmers, and biosafety experts to give back. You’re pulling from personal experience to teach others about the Holocaust, substance abuse, gangs, and bullying. You’re fighting anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia.

You’re helping young people avoid drugs, gang influence, and prison through programs and community centers that focus on leadership skills, mentorship programs, and non-violence training.

You’re providing safe havens for victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation. You’re offering resources for people affected by homelessness or natural disasters. You’re reducing recidivism rates by helping with offender re-entry. You’re providing food, housing, and other necessities to underserved communities—becoming beacons of hope.

You’re bringing diverse groups together through interfaith programs and community events. You’re helping prevent violence and extremism. And you’re even more directly helping law enforcement solve crimes, by providing K-9 and Amber Alert training, sexual assault forensics, and search-and-recovery K-9 services.

The FBI’s mission is a heavy one: to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution. And the people of the FBI work hard every day to fulfill that mission. But we can’t carry that weight alone. We can’t fully succeed without strong partners: our law enforcement partners, our intelligence partners, our business partners, and our community partners.

We need the support, understanding, and trust of the public. And you are our bridges to them. You’re out in our neighborhoods. You see what’s happening in our communities every day. And you’re taking action to make things better.

That’s our goal, too: to make our communities stronger and safer and better. Some of you know the people and the work of the FBI well. Others we welcome to get to know us even better—to see what we do firsthand. Because as partners, you help us learn more about the people we all serve—and you help your neighbors get to know and understand us, too.

Many days, you’re doing thankless jobs serving your communities. So we’re happy we get this chance to make sure we thank you. Thank you for your leadership and your service. Thank you for your dedication to others.

I believe that at the FBI, there’s nothing more important than the work we do, the people we do the work with, and the people we do the work for. Thank you for helping us protect your communities. We’re proud to stand with partners and leaders like you.