Of all the duties that fall to me as Chief of Police, the one I preformed last night is far and away my favorite.
Why? Because it was Graduation Day at the St. Louis Police Academy. Today, our police family welcomes a host of new members - not just the 17 men and women who received their badges when they crossed the stage, but everyone who shares the journey with them, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, husbands, wives, partners, and friends.
There is no mistaking the special nature of this occasion. I'm 21 years into my career, but let me assure you the memory of graduation remains vivid in my mind. There's just no denying the impact of the ceremony. Our training process is carefully designed to teach each recruit as much as possible, but in the end there are limits. The classroom inevitably turns out to be comforting and familiar, compared to the world beyond.
You realize this quickly enough, when you dress in full uniform for the first time, and march into a packed auditorium with the city's leaders watching your every step. Something about this moment makes it all seem real. Swearing the Oath of Office, and understanding the awesome social responsibility it represents, brings that reality even closer.
And yet still, the occasion is overwhelmingly a happy one. Once you manage to start breathing again, you realize that you're ready. You've studied, you've prepared, you've trained, and you've made yourself fit for the next step. More than that, you realize you're eager to begin. You remember why you wanted to become a cop. You think about the people you'll protect, the good deeds you'll do.
You have your entire career in front of you, and everything is new. All possibilities remain open, all obstacles negotiable. You're surrounded by people who love and support you, as new friends and old ones alike wish you well.
It's a great moment in any person's life.
The past year has been a trying one for American law enforcement, with unprecedented challenges and extraordinary events. But for these 17 men and women, it's the year their career dream came to be fulfilled. For them, there is only the way forward.
And that's a good thing, for all of us. Their optimism, their energy, and the freshness of their outlook we'll help us meet those challenges, and I believe we could all benefit by taking a moment to see the world through their eyes.