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Thune: Essential Workers are Heroes on the Front Line

“The past couple of months have also reminded us of another kind of heroism: the quiet heroism of doing one’s duty.”

May 6, 2020

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today, the first day of National Nurses Week, honored the nurses, health care workers, and other essential workers who are on the front lines during this coronavirus health crisis. Thune discussed the critical roles that essential workers are playing during this challenging time and the immense courage they are showing each day as they show up to work and fulfill their duties.

Click here to watch Thune’s speech.


Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, today is the first day of National Nurses Week, an annual commemoration each May celebrating the contributions of nurses.

“So today seemed like a fitting day to come down to the floor and talk about the contributions of nurses – and other essential workers – over the past couple of months.

“Mr. President, when we think about heroism, we tend to think of striking actions that take place in extreme circumstances.

“Running into burning buildings.

“Jumping onto a grenade to save a fellow soldier.

“Racing out under fire to rescue a wounded comrade.   

“And it’s right that when we think of heroism, we think of such acts – acts of superhuman courage, generosity, and self-sacrifice.

“But the past couple of months have also reminded us of another kind of heroism: the quiet heroism of doing one’s duty.

“Of getting up and going to work and doing your job day after day in difficult circumstances.

“Even when you’re tired.

“Even when you’re scared.

“Even when you know that doing your job could place you in danger.

“We’ve seen a lot of that heroism over the past couple of months.

“A lot of Americans have been able to telework during the coronavirus crisis.

“But many, many more have had to go out and do the work that can’t be done from home.

“Police officers.

“First responders.


“Grocery store employees.

“Farmers and ranchers.

“Food supply workers.

“Cleaning personnel.

“Bank employees.

“Utility workers.

“Delivery drivers.

“And, most of all, doctors and nurses.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve come to realize how much we rely on these individuals.

“And that society couldn’t operate without them.

“All the food in the world won’t do us any good if it doesn’t make it to grocery store shelves.

“That prescription from the doctor for lifesaving blood pressure medication is useless without a pharmacist to dispense the drug.

“We tend to take our utilities for granted … but what would we do during this crisis if no one was picking up our trash?  Or making sure the water keeps running and the electricity keeps flowing? 

“Sometimes heroism looks like running into a burning building … and sometimes it looks like putting on a mask and gloves and stocking the shelves with bread and pasta and cereal.

“Mr. President, I want to stay a special word about medical personnel.

“Of all the essential workers who have gotten up and gotten on with their duty in these days of pandemic, medical personnel have displayed a special courage.

“They have been on the front lines of this battle – the ones directly confronting this disease.

“Every day they’ve come to work knowing that today could be the day they catch the virus from a sick patient.

“But they’ve come to work anyway.

“They’ve read about and sometimes seen colleagues die from the disease.

“At times they’ve lacked adequate protective equipment.

“But they’ve come to work anyway.

“Those nurses we’re celebrating this week?

“They’ve worked 12-hour shifts providing medical care in a high-stress environment … and have still found time to sit with and comfort patients.

“I’ve read more than one story about nurses making sure coronavirus patients separated from family and friends didn’t die alone.

“To our nation’s doctors and nurses and other medical personnel, thank you.

“We are so grateful for your courage and sacrifice.

“Mr. President, before I close, I want to say a special thank you to the essential workers around the Capitol complex here in Washington.

“While senators have been able to do aspects of our jobs remotely, we’ve also had to be here in the Capitol to do the critical work of responding to this crisis.

“And we simply couldn’t be here without the contributions of a number of individuals:

“The men and women of the Capitol Police.

“The cleaning staff.

“The food service workers.

“The maintenance technicians and other support staff.

“The staffers who have to be in the office for the Senate to be able to operate.

“And the staffers right here on the floor – the doorkeepers and cloakroom staff, and individuals from the offices of the secretary and the parliamentarian.

“I know these are stressful days to be coming to work.

“I know you’ve been asked to exceed your normal duties.

“And I am incredibly grateful – and I know all of my colleagues are incredibly grateful – for everything you have done to keep the Senate operating safely.

“It’s because of you that we are able to keep getting our work done for the American people.

“Mr. President, sooner or later, we are going to get through this pandemic, and life will return to something resembling normal.

“But I hope we’ll still remember to be grateful for the people who have kept our society running during this crisis.

“Who have shown us, in a difficult and challenging time, how to get up every day and do our duty.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”