Remarks on Presenting the Young American Medals for Bravery and Service

September 11, 1981

The President. Attorney General Smith, Bill Webster of the FBI, families and friends who are here with these young people, and these young people who are going to be honored today -- Senator, we're delighted to have you here:

They come to the White House as already citizen heroes to be honored by their government and their fellow citizens for their courage, their character, and their service.

The true test of civilization, it's been said, is not the census or the size of cities or the crops, but the kind of people the country turns out. And ours is a country that was born of heroes. And now in the first decade of our third century, tried by all the challenges those years could hold, our moral fiber is stronger still.

These nine young Americans are proof of that fiber and that strength. It's now my honor and my privilege to be able to present the Young American Medals for Bravery and Service to nine of our citizens who make all Americans very proud.

The Attorney General is going to present them to me.

The Attorney General. First, Mr. President, let me present Darryl Gregory and Wade Cornick of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The President. You're Darryl? Wade? Turn around and let these people see you here. Let me tell you what's on the citation just briefly. These two young men here are awarded the Medal of Bravery for their exceptional courage, presence of mind, and swiftness of action. On the fourth day of March 1975, regardless of their personal safety, they rescued Mrs. Isaiah Carr in actual imminent danger of losing her life in a fire in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Darryl, I'm very proud to present that to you, and congratulations -- and to you. Congratulations to you both, and thank you.

The Attorney General. Next, may I present David and Robert Christie, brothers, from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

The President. The citation there, in greater length than I'm reading here today, determines that these two young men were given the Medal of Bravery for having exhibited exceptional courage, presence of mind, and swiftness of action, and again, regardless of their own personal safety, on the fifth day of August 1975, they rescued nine injured occupants from a burning vehicle near Thorp, Wisconsin.

Is this the one that exploded just after you got them out?

Mr. Christie. Yes.

The President. There you are, and congratulations.

And I left one thing out I should have added. The measure of their heroism is that only a few seconds after they had completed the rescue, the vehicle exploded.

The Attorney General. Next, the winner of the 1976 Young American Medal for Bravery is Donna Lee Slack, of West Bloomfield, Michigan.

The President. Donna Lee Slack is awarded this medal for the same courage and the same swiftness of action and the same disregard for her own personal safety on the 20th day of March 1976, in rescuing three small children when a tornado demolished their home in Bloomfield, Michigan.

Here's your medal, and thank you, and congratulations.

The Attorney General. Next, I would like to present Tim Hoover of Hot Springs, Arkansas, winner of the 1978 Young American Medal for Service.

The President. Just a minute here. Somehow, I have lost a paper. But anyway, we know what it is for, and it is no less heroic: young people that are willing to give of their time and their effort in public service to their fellow man, the young people and those who need our help on a voluntary basis. This is one of the things that we hope we are going to see revived in America, more voluntarism, more effort expended by people in a neighbor-to-neighbor way and less of the officialdom of government intervening in that field.

The medal that he is given is, as I say, for that kind of service that he has rendered. He's from Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Attorney General. Next, the 1978 Young American Medal for Bravery is to be conferred on Joel Peterson, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

The President. Joel, welcome up here. This was December 1978, 3 years ago. Joel, in great danger and risk to himself, laid down on the ice and pulled himself across the ice to rescue his friend who had fallen through the ice on the Eau Claire River and was in imminent danger of drowning, and certainly was disregarding his own personal safety in doing this.

Joel, congratulations. I'm very proud to give you that.

The Attorney General. Mr. President, the winner of the 1979 Young American Medal for Bravery is Jerome Dale of Baltimore, Maryland.

The President. Jerome, congratulations. And here again is a young man who demonstrated that bravery, that disregard for his own welfare, in rescuing two small children from a burning house in Baltimore, Maryland.

Congratulations.

The Attorney General. And finally, may I present the winner of the 1979 Young American Medal for Service, Carmen Maria Hernandez Rodriguez, of Caguas, Puerto Rico.

The President. And here again, Carmen Maria Hernandez Rodriguez is recognized again for that equally heroic task, the long hours in devoting her full time in service to her fellow man. We're deeply grateful to you.

Congratulations.

That concludes our ceremony today. I think all of us should go away a little more inspired. There's nothing wrong with our country when we've got young people doing things like that.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:34 a.m. at the presentation ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House. The ceremony was attended by friends and relatives of the award winners, Justice Department officials, and several Members of Congress.

The awards program, administered by the Department of Justice, was created by an act of Congress in 1950.