Return to Transcripts main page


Senator Elizabeth Warren And Vice President Joe Biden Speak At Sean Collier's Memorial Service

Aired April 24, 2013 - 12:55   ET



SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We see here today in the thousands of men and women of law enforcement from all across the country who have come to mourn, who have come to honor, who have come to celebrate one of their finest. We are strong. We are Collier strong. We are Boston strong. But the true source of our strength and our resilience is our spirit. Our recognition that we are united. We are connected. We are one. And when we serve each other, we give of ourselves, we grow in strength. The spirit of service shone brightly in Sean. We will miss you, Sean, but we will not forget you.

It is now my honor to introduce another man who has lived his life with spirit and who has always understood that service to each other makes our communities and our countries stronger. Ladies and gentlemen, the vice president of the United States.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you. I'm standing for you. You should not be standing for me. All of you. All of you officers.

Elizabeth, that was beautiful, and accurate.

Senator Cowen, members and my friends in the congressional delegation of Massachusetts, Mr. President, chief, that was a remarkable tribute to one of your own.

Thank you for doing this, Mr. President. And I'm humble that I was asked to participate. And I mean that seriously. We use that phrase lightly because I know, I know from experience that there's not much that I'm going to be able to do to fill that void, that sense of loss, the grief or answer those nagging questions about why.

Deval, governor, you not only made your state proud, you made the nation proud. You made all of America proud. Your resolute, calmness, conviction and determination resonated around the world because the whole world was watching. And a guy that I've known and loved for a long time, Mayor Menino, who I call Tommy, one of the greatest mayors of all the mayors in this country, he kind of is to me the definition of Boston strong, unyielding, absolutely committed and literally getting himself out of bed when he should be in bed to see to it that everything ran well.

I convey my thanks to Commissioner Davis and the Cambridge police force, the Watertown police force, the MIT police force, you all did incredible work. And, mom, dad, and Joe, my heart goes out to you. I hope you find some solace in this moment of extreme grief looking around this field and listening to what is being said and written in response to the people of this country and around the world about your son. No child should predecease their parents. And although every loss is different, one thing is certain, I know from experience, the sense of dread that reliving the moment in the last nine days almost hourly of the moment you learn the fate of your child. The sense of hollowness. It feels like you're being sucked into a void that you can't control. I remember.

As I said, I know there's nothing anyone can say or do to bring you solace, but I also know from experience, as I said to you in the tent, that the moment will come when that thing that triggers the memory of Sean, that moment, whether it's a song or a season or a holiday or passing a little league field or whatever it is, you'll know it's going to be OK when the first instinct is you get a smile to your lips before you get a tear to your eyes. It's impossible to fathom that that will occur, but I promise you, I guarantee you, it will.

You are an incredible family. I watched the brothers and sisters on the "Today" show on Monday. You gave me hope and brought me and millions of others to tears. But you painted a vivid picture of your brother so everyone could understand. What stuck with me the most and probably hundreds of stories that have been told and written about since Sean's death was when you were -- I believe it was at a restaurant at Pappa Gino's and he turned to you, mom, and said, there's a lady crying over there. You're a nurse. Go talk to her. Go talk to her. From what I've learned since then, that's who he has been his whole life. That's why he did what he did with the students here on campus.

That's why of all the things I've read, not knowing Sean, the one that struck home the most to me, Mr. President, was the student who was quoted as saying "He loved us and we loved him." It's not a surprise, James, that they may have loved him, but to love him because they knew he loved them. What a remarkable son. What a remarkable brother.

I've known the Colliers my whole life and today is the first time I met them. I grew up in the same neighborhood. I was telling them that like a lot of you have a badge shield pinned on. And in my neighborhood, when I moved to Clermont (ph), you either became a firefighter, a cop, a priest or you joined the trades. I wasn't capable of doing any of them, so I ended up where I am.

But I know you. I know you. You have been -- you're among the men and women I most admire. I have worked with you my entire career as a lawyer, serving as a senator for 36 years and now. In my view, what people don't understand sometimes about all of you is that every one of you in spite of what the chief said joined the force, became a law enforcement officer for the same underlying reason, you felt a sense of obligation. You thought you could help. You all had that sort of inexplicable sense of duty and that gross underestimation of your value and how important you are. That's the single element I think that runs through all of American law enforcement. When events like this occur, the nation is always reminded of your bravery, but unfortunately having attended so many funerals and memorial services for law enforcement officers in my career, I not only think of your bravery, the first thoughts I have are your families. Because every day when you get up and pin on that shield and walk out that door, your husband, your wife, your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, they know. They know it's nagging that anything could happen. Yet they stand with you. They support you. And they have the courage to encourage you to do what you do.

So I want to thank not only Sean's family for their willingness to support their brother, their son taking on this work, but all of your husbands and wives, fathers and mothers and children, we owe you so much more than just honoring you on days of grief and celebration.

There's a line from an English poet, Keats, he said, they also serve who only stand and wait. Your families, they stand and wait with the knowledge that anything can happen. They live with it every day. You never know when you get that call to walk up that three- story walkup to break up a domestic fight or pull someone over in a routine traffic stop or sitting, standing watch on a campus of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. You're a different breed and so are your families. I salute, I admire, what you do on behalf of all of us every day. Thank you for standing in line between our families and danger every single solitary day.

You know, I get asked, like my colleagues, almost every day since 911, why? Why? Why? This terrorist phenomenon of the late 20s, the 21st -- the beginning of the 21st century. Why? People say to me, for they surely know they can never defeat us. They can never overthrow us. They can never occupy us. So, why? Why? Whether it's Al Qaeda Central out of the (INAUDIBLE) or two twisted perverted cowardly knock-off Jihadists here in Boston. Why do they do what they do? I've thought about it a lot, because I deal with it a lot. And I've come to the conclusion which is not unique to me but I do it -- they do it so instill fear, to have us in the name of our safety and security, jettison, what we value the most and what the world most values about us, our open society, our system of justice that guarantees freedom, the access of all Americans to opportunity, the free flow of information and people across this country, our transparency. That's their target.

It infuriates them that we refuse to bend, refuse to change, refuse to yield to fear. The doctrine of hate and oppression they have found out cannot compete with the values of openness and inclusiveness, and that's why they're losing around the world. The irony is we read about these events, we experience them. But the truth is on every frontier, terrorism as a weapon is losing. It is not gaining adherence. And what galls them the most is America does remain that shining city on the hill. We're a symbol of the hopes and dreams of the very aspirations of people all around the world, people who live where they thrive. Our very existence makes a lie of their perverted ideology.

So, the only way they can gain ground is to instill fear that causes us to jettison our values, our way of life, for us to change. The moment we change, the moment we look inward, the moment we get on a crouch on our defensive, that's the moment when they win. What me -- what makes me so proud of this great state and the city of Boston and Cambridge and all those involved and the students on this campus, what makes me so proud to be an American is that we have not yielded to our fears. We have not compromised our values. We have not weakened our constitutional guarantees. We have not closed our borders.

Just look around this field at the student body here. Just listen to the accents of the president and vice president, this is a diverse campus. Probably the greatest technological university in the world, it's black, it's white, it's Muslim, it's Christian, it's Jewish, it's Hindu. That's who we are. You represent every community in the world. And what do you do? You challenge your orthodoxy as they try to impose it. You push the envelope. You know that no change can come without jettison (ph) part of the past. You're on the edge of science and technology. You make no distinction between the competence of male and female. You are their worst nightmare. All the things these perverted Jihadis, self-made or organized, all the things they fear.

To the students that are here, I promise you, these events since 911 will not write the history of this century or this nation. They will be a mere chapter in the journey of the history of this country because we will not change and they will not marginalize us. They, they will eventually be marginalized.

What the world saw was 264 people injured. Three beautiful decent people lost in the marathon. An eight-year-old boy. A Chinese student, a 29-year-old woman. And the world saw -- they saw all who were there to celebrate who were hurt, injured and damaged. And then they saw two days later this wonderful kid, amazing kid, 26 years old lose his life. That's part of what they saw. What they also saw -- they also saw the incredible heroism, commitment and resilience of the people of Boston, the people of Cambridge, of the American people.

Oh, we have suffered. We are grieving. But we are not bending. We will not yield to fear. We will not hunker down. We will not be intimidated. When the World Trade Towers were taken down on that horrible day, the city said we will never build another one. We built one taller, an absolute defiance.

When bin Laden struck, there were those who said we'll never follow him. We said, we will follow him to the gates of hell if necessary, and we did.

If the purpose of terrorism is to instill fear, you saw none of it here in Boston.

Boston, you sent a powerful message to the world.

But also they saw, was people running to the site of the explosion. As I watched it, I had the same view of everyone else in the country.

Why were those people finishing the marathon in a sprint? Why? To head to the hospital, some to operate, most to give blood.

There wasn't a second thought. It wasn't like let's sit around and think what we can do. It was instinctive. It's what you, figuratively speaking, all did when you raced toward the carnage instead of running away from it, what you did when you looked up to help your friends and neighbors and complete strangers in the middle of chaos.

And let me tell you this, even though I am not a Bostonian, I am absolutely certain that next year's Boston Marathon will be bigger, more spectacular and attended by more people than any marathon in the history of the United States of America, because that's who you are.


BIDEN: And that's the message, that's the message that is heard in every corner and cave. Those craven, misguided, perverted apostles of a decent and honorable faith are hiding.

Boston will never yield. America will never yield.

One of my favorite poets is Seamus Heaney. I know the congressmen thinks I always quote them, Irish poets, because I'm Irish. That's not the reason I do it. I quote Irish poets because they're the best poets.


BIDEN: That's the reason why.

And the Collier family knows that, right?

But all kidding aside, he wrote a poem called "The Cure at Troy."

And he -- there's a stanza in that poem that I think best defines the nature of the American spirit, whether you are a newly minted citizen or your family's been here for eight generations.

And the stanza goes like this.

He said, "History says don't hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime, the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme."

I think that sentiment is stamped into the DNA of Americans, regardless of where they come from. Ladies and gentlemen, it's who we are. It's who we are. It's who we've always been. Just look at the journey and the history of this country.

For us Americans we believe that hope and history can rhyme. That's what separates us.

The most compelling line in the famous documents that have been written in the Constitution and the Declaration and the one that sticks out to me most, "to form a more perfect union." The moment we stop is the moment we lose. So my message is, embrace the memories of those beautiful people we lost in the bombing. Stand by and help and support the hundreds who were injured.

And honor, honor this hero, Sean, for what he was. Remember him not merely for the sacrifice he made, but for the man he was.

We Irish have an expression, the highest praise you can give in my family, in my neighborhood, a man or a woman, is look at them and say, he was a good man. This was a good man. The family, my prayers that God will bring you peace and healing.

And may God bless all of you.

And most of all, may God protect all of you first responders, as you protect us.

God bless you all.