“Boy is it hard,” he said. “I know how proud I am when my son Beau is honored on the anniversary of his death as a consequence of burn pits in Iraq. But it brings everything back like it happened that moment.
“I want to thank you for having the courage to be here today,” he added.
In addition to the police officers, Mr. Biden awarded the medals to five local officials, each of whom refused to do the bidding of those who insisted that the election had been rigged.
Two of them — Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, who is her daughter — received the awards for serving as poll workers in Atlanta, where they were subjected to abuse by Trump supporters who falsely accused them of participating in election fraud.
“Both of them were just doing their jobs, and they were targeted and threatened by the same peddlers of a lie that was fueling the insurrection,” Mr. Biden said. “They were literally forced from their homes and faced despicable racist taunts.”
Mr. Biden also praised Al Schmidt, who was a city commissioner on the Philadelphia County Board of Elections in 2020, noting that he “did not bend, he did not bow, he did not yield to the political threats and pressure.” And he hailed Jocelyn Benson, who served as the Secretary of State of Michigan during the 2020 election, and Rusty Bowers, the Republican House speaker in Arizona. All three resisted pressure from those seeking to overturn the results in 2020.
Mr. Biden called Ms. Benson “a true leader in our nation” and said Mr. Bowers shows people “what integrity is all about.”
A year ago, with the events of Jan. 6 looming in the more recent past, Mr. Biden expressed greater worry about the future of the country, saying that “as we stand here today — one year since Jan. 6, 2021 — the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated.”
But on Friday, he returned to the optimism that has often characterized his speeches.
“We’re not a land of kings and dictators, autocrats and extremists,” he said. “As we see in today’s honorees, we’re a nation and we the people that toughen our fiber, renew our faith and strengthen our cause. There’s nothing beyond our capacity, if we act together.”