DAY 59 - GRADUATION

February 5, 2010: The day had arrived! Family and friends had gathered to see “their Recruit” take the oath and pin on the Badge of “FIREFIGHTER!” My classmates looked so young and crisp in the their bright white shirts, sporting – for...


I know members of this class who worked out 3 times a day on top of studying and raising families. I felt really sorry for my classmates and my instructors who had families – some have infants and toddlers at home, and I know the wives picked up much of the workload while Dad was studying....or working out....or crashing from exhaustion onto the couch at night. The last 13 weeks have been tough on recruits, instructors, and families.
 
My son Jack provided a vivid reminder of the sacrifices made by families of firefighters just last week. Jack’s 12th birthday is today. Happy Birthday, Jack! Jack said to me last Sunday, “Only 5 more days!” Thinking he was excited about his upcoming birthday, I said, “Yeah, only 5 more days until your birthday, huh?” And then he WHAMMED me – as only a loved one can WHAM you right in the heart.....”No, only 5 days until I get my Dad back again.” OUCH....a vivid reminder that Families Also Serve.
 
In a few minutes we’ll take an oath of office – the Firefighter’s Oath” – to serve....to protect.....to sacrifice....We take that oath knowing that we are also committing our families to the long hours, the illnesses we’ll bring home, and the uncertainly of what the pager and the radio might bring us.
 
Yes, I will always remember the spouses, the mothers and fathers and children. who are taking the oath with us today. I will always remember that Families Also Serve. I want to specifically thank the families of the Class of 2010 and all of the Saint Paul Firefighters and Police Officers for their enduring service to the department and the citizens of Saint Paul. Thank you, family members! (Lead the applause).
 
Finally to the class of 2010:
 
THANK YOU most profoundly for making me a part of your special class. You made me feel young and strong and part of something incredibly special. I am so very proud of you!
 
At the Saint PaulFireAcademy, you survived tough, demanding physical training; you overcame academic challenges; you grew stronger hearts and a bold spirit, and now you are at the end of those 13 weeks of training....yet at the beginning of your real learning experience “out in the field.” 
 
Like the men of 1855 – those first firemen in Saint Paul – you were chosen for your physical strength, your mental toughness, and your willingness to serve others. And I know that over next several decades of your service, you too will become renowned for your extreme bravery, your compassion for others, and your devotion to the citizens of Saint Paul and to our Fire Department Family.
 
Our family: Sometimes we’re set in our ways......often opinionated..... We’re tough and aggressive because we have to be; and we’re compassionate and gentle cause we need to be. Welcome to our strong, proud, family!
 
Welcome also to the noble profession of being a public service. Please don’t ever forget that you are public servants first – foremost – always!
 
The words “public” and “service” come from the Latin words for “people” and “slave” – remember you are literally “slaves to the people” and you don’t work for yourself, but for others. Look first to satisfy the needs of the citizens in all situations and at all times. You will know the sacred trust that people put in you as you enter their homes, treat their loved ones, save their treasured possessions, restore their sense of dignity and security, and safeguard the mementos and memories of their life. Never forget the trust that people will place in you......and never betray it. As Chief Appleton so aptly put it: “There’s a name on the back of your jackets. That name MEANS something. Don’t ever do anything to discredit that name!”
 
Now that’s a tall, tall order, and I know we didn’t cover all of that over the last 13 weeks. So remember my 6 Standing Orders to you: the 6 rules to be followed at all times and in all situations. They are your Golden Trump card – to be played anytime you are in doubt. Know too, that I invest you with full authority to carry out each of these duties:
 
Always – always – look at yourselves and evaluate your actions and those of the firefighters around you through the eyes of the citizens. They are the final arbitrators about whether or not our actions are appropriate and the quality of our services.