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Dave D. Lauriski
2003 National Mine Rescue, First Aid,
Bench and Preshift Contest
Awards Banquet
Louisville, Ky.
September 19, 2003

Thank you, Joe.

And my thanks and gratitude to both you and Carl Boone for organizing this year's contest. Once again, you and your staff have done an outstanding job.

As always, I am thrilled to be here - thrilled to see so many teams participating, thrilled to meet up with old friends and fellow veterans of mine safety.

To each and every rescue team here, for those who participated in first aid, bench and preshift, thank you for all your hard work this week, and for your continued dedication to mine rescue and to mine safety as a whole.

Thank you to mining officials representing the state mine rescue teams.

Thank you, also, to the co-workers, friends and relatives of the participating teams.

Your support means a great deal to these men and women.

It means a great deal to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, because we have long understood the importance and value of mine rescue.

And most importantly, it means a great deal to the miners who work in the mines.

I am especially pleased to have in attendance this evening Elaine L. Chao, my boss, and the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

In nearly 100 years of mine rescue competitions, to my knowledge, this is the first time a sitting secretary of labor has been in attendance.

It speaks volumes, I believe, for the importance the Labor Department places on mine rescue, and on mine safety and health as a whole.

So, thank you, Madame Secretary, for being with us here tonight.

I may be little biased, but I can't help but feel that Secretary Chao holds a special place in her heart for miners. Perhaps that stems from a little event that occurred in Somerset, Pennsylvania last summer.

Shortly after the rescue of the Quecreek Nine, Secretary Chao, myself, members of my staff, Pennsylvania state and local officials, and school kids were guests of President George W. Bush at a celebration event near Pittsburgh.

Several hundred of us sat in an area normally reserved for the Greentree Volunteer Fire Company's emergency vehicles. We listened to the President extol the spirit of America and how "the best of America was represented by those who spent long hours worrying about the lives of their fellow citizens."

As I look out on all of the faces in front of me tonight, I just want to say, I think that mine rescuers represent the best of America.

As a miner and former mine rescue team member, I've seen the dedication and commitment first hand. I've seen it play out with different outcomes.

But Quecreek was evidence of this dedication and commitment.

I know you've shared similar experiences yourselves.

But, this week, you are here taking part in an exercise that hopefully will never play out in real life.

The time may come when your rescue skills will need to be summoned.

Competitions such as the one this week will prepare you for that call to service.

And no matter where that call originates, I know that offers of help will come from all corners of this country, because that's the nature of mine rescuers.

It troubles me that the number of mine rescue teams has started to dwindle over the past several years.

I strongly hope we never find ourselves in the position that, when a call goes out, there's no one available to answer it.

Let's all do our part to continue the proud tradition of mine rescue.

I'm proud to be a part of this contest and to have the chance to associate with you all.

God Bless you all, and God Bless America.

And now, I would like to introduce to you to our United States Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao.

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