Yesterday, we honored the individual and team achievements of the hardworking professionals of DOT with our 46th annual Secretary's Awards. It was truly a celebration.
When President Johnson signed the legislation creating this Department, he said that, "in large measure, America's history is a history of her transportation."
That's a perspective I've come to share. Those engaged in the work of building the world's greatest transportation system -- and keeping it that way -- do make history. And I'm not just talking about the people, long gone, who laid the tracks for the Transcontinental Railroad or built the first routes of our Interstate Highway System. I'm also talking about the men and women of the U.S. Department of Transportation today.
When Hurricane Sandy battered infrastructure on the East Coast, DOT responded, helping to rebuild it stronger than before. Others have spent the year ensuring that pilots are better trained; that our motorcoaches are safer; and that our waterways carry their share of the freight that fuels our economy.
These talented and dedicated public servants helped build and maintain our nation's transportation system, making it safer and more efficient --and they did it while enduring a government shutdown.
So on behalf of the President, the Department, and the many millions of drivers and fliers, mariners and train travelers who, every day --without thinking about it-- get home safely, we took a well-deserved hour to thank them.
But among all of the terrific personnel we celebrated, we had the opportunity to single out one of our family for special distinction: Deputy Secretary John Porcari.
It's certainly accurate to say that John Porcari has left a brilliant and permanent mark on this department. But it's more accurate to say that he's left his mark, quite literally, on the nation --in the places where the tracks are being laid, where roads are being paved, and where ports are being deepened.
For example, our Buy America Program wouldn't be a program if John hadn't invested himself earlier --and more deeply-- than most. Today, the infrastructure projects being built by American workers using American products have, in large part, him to thank.
Of course, this is just a small part of what John's done here -- and throughout his career -- to improve every avenue of our transportation system. In Maryland, as the Washington Post pointed out, John was one of the few state DOT heads who had "dealt with all five major forms of travel: highway, air, sea, train and mass transit."
And in coming here, John focused on improving --and expanding the capacity of-- all modes of transportation, to give people the choice of how they get where they're going.
And because of the choices he's given millions of travelers, and the hard and right choices he's made as Deputy Secretary, I'm proud to say that Deputy Secretary John Porcari earned DOT's highest honor this year, the Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement.
Congratulations, John; from a very grateful Secretary. We wish you the very best in all of your future endeavors.