4:47 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. It’s a great honor to have you all. I know your stories. I got to read about your stories. In some cases, I knew your story without having to read about it — from Staten Island. So, thank you all very much. It’s a great honor to have you.
This afternoon, we’re going to recognize several individuals who have responded to the invisible enemy with courage, determination, and grace. Terrific people. In recent weeks, our nation has endured extraordinary hardships and loss, and we mourn with one heart for every life that’s been taken from us.
In the midst of so much pain, the heroes we honor today are a true source of inspiration for us all. You really are very great inspiration for us all. And the whole country is watching.
With us today is Kyle West from Cincinnati, Ohio. Kyle is 23 years old, and he’s proud to be a mailman in his hometown. I know Cincinnati very well. I actually worked in Cincinnati, and it was a great — the Queen City. I had a great experience. Many of the people on this route are older Americans in a low-income area. And as Kyle says of his job, “We’re not just mailmen, we’re mechanics, movers, and many other things. We’re part of the neighborhood.” That’s true, isn’t it — huh? — for a mailman. Kyle talks to roughly 500 of his customers each day, bringing a cheerful smile and a listening ear to every parcel of mail.
When the pandemic hit, Kyle delivered a note to hundreds of older Americans on his route. It said, “If you are at risk and need help getting essential items, let me know. I will do what I can to help.” That means you get it done, right? That’s what he means. “Sincerely, Mailman Kyle.” Since then, Kyle has received more than 400 responses, and he’s delivered vital groceries to dozens of senior citizens.
Kyle, your love for your neighbors lifts us and the entire nation. Would you come up and say a few words? Please. Thank you, Kyle. It’s terrific. (Applause.)
I’ll move that down for you. Thank you.
MR. WEST: All right. Thank you, Mr. President. I’m greatly honored to be here to represent my fellow postal employees as we continue to provide our essential services to America. Customers often — often tell us during difficult times that seeing us out every day gives them a sense of normalcy in their life.
The gratitude we’re receiving from our customers is greatly inspiring. And the thank-you notes along our routes are helping us get through.
We’re delivering a lot of essential items at this time. The amount of medicine has greatly increased. Customers depend on us for Social Security checks and other financial information: census material, mail-in ballots, and then essential items that they’re ordering online.
At the Postal Service, we’re continuing to follow CDC guidelines to keep ourselves and our customers safe: social distancing, wearing a face mask, lots of hand washing, and the cleaning of our vehicles and facilities. I’m very proud to work for the Postal Service and to deliver for our country. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Great job, Kyle. Thank you very much.
MR. WEST: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Great job. Thank you very much, Kyle.
Also with us are Libby Bish and Rafael Melo. And they’re real estate agents in Northern Virginia — great business, real estate. When one of their clients told them that his restaurant had been hit hard, Libby and Rafael decided they wanted to do something to help. They began raising money to buy food from restaurants to donate to local hospitals. Within a few weeks, they have raised over $6,000, made 18 deliveries, and fed over 500 healthcare workers.
And Libby and Rafael, please, I’d like to thank you and acknowledge you by having you step forward and say a few words. Please.
Please, go ahead. (Applause.)
MR. MELO: Thank you, Mr. President. You kind of covered it all for us already. (Laughs.) So we are real estate agents in the D.C. area. And this mission really came about after receiving a phone call from some of our clients who work in the food and beverage industry here. They gave us some insight on what COVID-19, how the — the impact that it had on their business.
And from there, we just felt compelled to act. So, we started a GoFundMe campaign to give them some additional business; took money, ordered catering directly from their restaurant, and we dropped it off with different staff working at various hospitals around the area — tirelessly, obviously.
The campaign started picking up, so we started doing more donations. And we kept dropping off — we also increased our goal, but we kept dropping off at different hospitals around the area.
So another really cool factor that we did to sprinkle that — to sprinkle in with this was we started compiling videos of some of our contributors expressing their gratitude, and those videos were being sent along with the food drop-offs.
Let me get you ready. (Adjusts microphone.)
MS. BISH: (Laughs.) Some assistance with that.
Yeah. So, Mr. President already addressed most of this, but we named our campaign “Frontline Fuel.” We raised over $6,000, helped over 18 local businesses, and delivered meals to nurses and doctors in the area — over 500 nurses and doctors.
We also partnered with a local boutique company that produces hand sanitizer, DEFY Aesthetic, to include in our drop-offs as an added bonus. Our mission is simple: We want to help local business while also encouraging and helping healthcare workers who are selflessly working around the clock to ensure the health of our people.
Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity. It’s an honor to be here today.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. Thank you both. (Applause.) Thanks very much. Great job.
Tall guy, right? Next to — so how tall are you?
MR. MELO: 6’8.
THE PRESIDENT: 6’8? That’s a good height.
MS. BISH: (Inaudible.) (Laughs.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a — I have a son that looks like he’s going to be right around that number. Barron. Right?
MR. MELO: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s — he’s going to be up there. That’s really good. Thank you very much, and thank you, Libby, very much.
Today, we also want our TJ Kim, a high school sophomore from McLean, Virginia. TJ hopes to serve as a pilot in the United States Navy. At just 16 year old — 16, boy, that’s a great age — TJ is already taking flight classes to get his pilot’s license. When he heard that hospitals needed more personal protective equipment, he launched his own mission, Operation SOS, which stands for Supplies Over the Skies.
He worked with his school, church, and community to collect medical supplies. With the help of the flight instructor, who probably was a very good person — what do you think? Pretty good?
MR. KIM: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Good flight instructor too?
MR. KIM: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Knows how to fly, right? Pretty good?
MR. KIM: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: You better take lessons from somebody that knows how to fly. But who also joins us today.
And TJ has flown and delivered more than 10,000 pieces of personal protective equipment. That’s pretty — that’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of flying too. That’s great. And there can be no better preparation for flying the military planes, right?
MR. KIM: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I think there can be nothing better.
But you’re going to four rural hospitals in Virginia. So, TJ, come on up and say a few words. Please, great honor.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. KIM: Thank you, Mr. President. I’m beyond humbled to be here today. My name is TJ Kim, and I’m a sophomore at the Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland. A little over a month ago, I turned 16 when, due to coronavirus, my school year and my lacrosse season were effectively over. All I had left was my flight training. Ever since I was nine, it’s been my dream to attend the Naval Academy and become a fighter pilot in the Navy.
So I talked to my dad about ways that I could continue my flight training while serving the community at the same time. We came up with Operation SOS, meaning Supplies Over the Skies.
In my home state of Virginia, I found that there are seven critical-access hospitals serving the rural communities around them. And I realized that while every hospital is hurting for tier-one PPEs, it was the rural hospitals that were often forgotten about. So I wanted to do something to help and bless them.
I’ve flown four Operation SOS missions so far to Luray Caverns, Winchester, the Highlands of Hot Springs, and the northern neck of (inaudible).
I’ve sourced and delivered 8,000 medical gloves, 2,000 head covers, 1,500 shoe covers, 400 masks, as well as protective eyewear, isolation gowns, hand sanitizers, and disinfectant sprays. The response has been amazing.
Throughout my journey, I’ve learned two lessons: First, is that it takes a community to serve the community. What I mean is that I’m blessed by an incredible community that includes my family, my teachers and peers at Landon, my flight school, my neighborhood, and my church. It’s been their support that has allowed me to complete each Operation SOS mission successfully.
Second, I’ve learned that you are never too young to think about how to serve others in times of need. Mr. President, you once said that America is the place where anyone can rise, and today there are youth everywhere in America rising up to help sew masks, deliver groceries to the elderly, and write thank-you letters to our frontline workers. And when I think about them, I’ve realized just how undeserving I am to be here.
Mr. President, I’m so honored by this award, and I also don’t know how to repay you. Let me make you this promise instead: As long as there’s a need and as long as I can find the PPEs and fly them to rural hospitals, I’m going to do it.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s fantastic.
MR. KIM: I promise to continue to rise and be of service to my campus, my community, my Commonwealth, and my country.
Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. Where’s your flight instructor?
MR. KIM: Oh, he’s right there, in the back.
THE PRESIDENT: Where’s your instructor?
MR. KIM: In the back, middle.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. How about standing up? (Applause.) Was he a great — a great student?
THE PRESIDENT: Huh? Did a good job?
THE PRESIDENT: He did job, I’ll bet. Thank you very much. That’s great. Thank you.
MR. KIM: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic story.
So a man that I know because I spent a lot of time — and spend in a place called Staten Island. Right? That’s true, Frank. You know that. Frank Siller from Staten Island, New York — a really special place. I spent many an hour — many a day with my father there over the years. And it’s just great.
Nearly two decades ago, Frank founded an organization called Tunnel to Towers to support the loved ones of the fallen for first responders and service members. He began this mission to honor the legacy of his younger brother, firefighter Steven Siller. And so, Steven is looking down right now and he says, “My brother is in the White House, doing a real job.” He’s very proud of you. I know how hard you work. Coming from New York, I guess, especially, Frank, I know how hard you work. And you’ve done a fantastic job. We appreciate it very much.
But he was one of the immortal heroes who gave his life on September 11th, 2001.
As the virus began to spread in New York earlier this year, Frank leapt into action. He helped raise money to deliver more than 1 million pieces of personal protective equipment — that’s a lot — for hospitals in the city.
Frank and his army of volunteers have delivered food to firehouses and phone stations and police stations and all sorts of places all across New York and New Jersey. Frank also raised over $5 million to help pay the mortgages of families — homes that have 25 first responders. I guess it’s a total of 25. So you have a lot of people that are very thankful, Frank. I’ve heard a lot about it. First responders and healthcare workers who have tragically lost their lives in the fight against the virus. It’s a vicious, vicious enemy.
Frank, I want to thank you for continuing to support our nation’s heroes. And, again, your family and your brother is very proud of you, looking down. And please come up and say a few words, Frank, please.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. SILLER: Thank you, Mr. President, for inviting me here today and to honor and let people know the work that Tunnel to Towers foundation is doing.
My siblings and I, we started the foundation in honor of my brother, New York City firefighter. On September 11th, 2001, he strapped 60 pounds of gear on his back and ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which is almost two miles long. And I know you know that.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a long tunnel.
MR. SILLER: It’s almost two miles long. And he come out and run up West Street, went into the South Tower, up those stairs. And while saving people’s lives, he gave up his own.
And we were — since then, we’ve been honoring our military and first responders ever since. We built specially adapted smart homes for our country’s most catastrophically injured service members. We deliver mortgage-free homes for Gold Star Families and fallen first responder families who die in the line of duty who leave young families behind.
And, Mr. President, when you said that we are at war with an invisible enemy, we couldn’t have been more proud to know that we’re doing our job, and what we’re supposed to be doing as a local foundation, as a national foundation, to make sure that we take care of the frontline healthcare workers.
Saint Fran- — we follow teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, who said, “Brothers and sisters, while you are here, while you have time, let us do good.” And we know that is our guiding light from the foundation, is what we strive to do every single is to do good, and not just the memory of my brother, but all those who perished on 9/11, those who have perished ever since that have given us this great country, and those frontline healthcare workers who are willing to die for you and me today, who are on that frontline in the battlefield that you all often speak about.
And that’s why our foundation has made a commitment. We want America to make a promise to these great Americans, who are willing to die for you and me, that if they go out and they give their kids a kiss goodbye, and they don’t come home, that we are going to take care of them.
You know I know we will, because we are and always have been the greatest country that has ever existed. Why? Because the goodness and the generosity of America will always take care of the greatness of America.
Mr. President, thank you once again for having me here today. God bless you. God bless America. And remember, we are only the land of the free because of the brave. Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Great job. Thank you, Frank. Thank you very much, Frank. Beautiful.
In this hour of need, the world has once again witnessed the unbeatable strength of the United States of America. All across our land, heroes have raced into action. Doctors and nurses are enduring sleepless nights to save every possible life. Farmers, truck drivers, and grocers are working to keep our shelves stocked and our people fed. Families are helping neighbors in need, and entire communities are rallying together to defeat the plague — this ugly, horrible plague.
The five Americans we recognize today are the first of a number of individuals we will honor in the coming weeks. We’re going to be honoring a lot of great people. Our nation has just completed the “30 Days to Slow the Spread,” during which every American was asked to make sacrifices to help defeat the virus.
Not long ago, models predicted that between 1.5 million and 2.2 million people would have died in the United States without the mitigation. Through our aggressive response and the remarkable commitment and bravery of American people, we have saved thousands and thousands of lives. I can even make that, if you want, hundreds of thousands of lives. People were thinking in terms of 1.5 million lives lost to 2.2 without the mitigation. And hopefully, we’re going to come in below that 100,000 lives lost, which is a horrible number nevertheless. It’s a horrible thing. It could’ve been stopped. It should’ve been stopped at source, but it wasn’t.
But it’s a tribute to this country and the people of our country what they’ve been able to do and the amount of lives that have been saved.
Because we’ve flattened the curve, slowed the spread, and massively expanded our healthcare capacity, we’re now in the process of gradually reopening our country. And it’s being done with a tremendous — a tremendous gusto and vigor. We see that all the time, don’t we, Frank? They want to get out there, and they want to get back. That’s what they want. They want their country back, and they’re getting it back. And we’re getting it back safely and we’re getting it back quickly.
It’s a strategy guided by science, evidence, facts, and reason. A never-ending lockdown would inflict colossal damage on the health and lifespans of our people. Public health is closely tied to economic health. No state or country can long ignore the facts and the truth. And we’re just very proud of the fact that people have put up with so much in order to keep the numbers down to the level. And it looks like we’ll be having our finished number.
It should be something — you know, think of it: We could save anywhere from a million to even a million-five. And, I guess, if you think about it, we could save 2.1, 2.5 million lives, depending on what happens. And with this invisible enemy, as we said, nobody knows what really happens, but we’ve learned a lot in the last two months.
Throughout our history, it’s America’s love and strength, not its fears and doubts, that have paved the way and paved the road to victory. Together, we’ll emerge from this chapter of hardship and all of those deaths of such great souls and such great people. With new unity and resolve, our people will thrive, our industries will roar, our innovators will astonish, and America will try triumph like never before. And that’s what I feel — like never before.
We built the greatest economy in the history of the world. Greatest employment numbers. Greatest stock market. Greatest number of jobs. Any way you want it. Greatest industries. Greatest creations. And one day, we had to close it down. They said, “Sir, we’re going to have to close it down.” And we did that. And everybody suffered, but they did an incredible job.
And because of that, we’ve saved maybe millions of lives. And I just want to thank everybody. This is a scourge all around the world — 182 countries as of a week ago, so it’s probably higher. A hundred and eighty-two countries are going through relatively the same thing, and it’s a very sad — it’s a very sad chapter. There was no reason for this. There was no reason for this. This should’ve been stopped at the source.
But I’d like to congratulate these incredible five Americans. And I’d like to ask them to come forward and receive their award and their recognition. And they deserve it. And we’ll be watching you throughout your life. You may be around a little bit longer than me, Mr. Mailman, but I’ll be watching you as long as I can. I’m watching all of you, and I want to thank you very much. And to my hometown man, thank you very much. Thank you, Frank. Please.
(The awards are presented.)
So, that was great. And you represent a very important part of this country, and we appreciate it very much. Thank you very much. Go have a good day. Bye. (Applause.)
5:10 P.M. EDT