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Attorney General Holder at Former Attorney General Mukasey Portrait Unveiling
WASHINGTON, D.C. ~ Thursday, September 10, 2009

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Judge Mukasey, eight months ago you addressed a standing-room only crowd here in the Great Hall. In the waning hours of the previous Administration, you came to this stage to bid farewell to the Department and to thank the dedicated DOJ employees who served during your tenure.

Judge, there is no question why so many of your friends, associates, and former staff members came to honor you and thank you for your service to our nation, and there is no question today why they have returned. They are here because you not only answered the call to service at a turbulent time for our nation and this Department, but you executed your responsibilities with tremendous skill, honor, and integrity.

When President Bush asked you to serve, it would have been understandable for you to have politely declined. You had already served your country with distinction as a prosecutor and a judge. Your reputation for fairness was well-established, as evidenced by the support your nomination received across the political aisle from Senator Chuck Schumer and others.

You were enjoying a rewarding career in the private sector that allowed you to spend more time with Susan, Marc, Jessica, and your grandchildren. And, you were asked to take a job running a Department engulfed in controversy, knowing that you would have not years but mere months to chart a new course.

No one would have thought twice if you said no. But you answered the call. You sacrificed for the cause of country. And the qualities you showed in your decision to take the job foreshadowed the kind of Attorney General you would become – a soft-spoken but fierce defender of justice who wears his patriotism not on his sleeve but in his heart.

In the final days of your tenure, we met to discuss the future of the Department. I will always be grateful for your forthrightness and your obvious desire to help me and all DOJ employees succeed. The advice you gave me that day was invaluable, and I draw on it every day. Although no one would expect two Attorneys General to agree on everything, I can report to you with confidence that we are continuing the work you started to restore the Justice Department.

As you know, it is our tradition at the Justice Department to commemorate every man and woman who holds the office of Attorney General with a portrait upon completion of his or her service. These portraits are meant to honor those who have served here, but also to remind us that though Attorneys General come and go, our nation’s commitment to the cause of justice endures. Each of us is here for a fleeting time, but the values we cherish are permanent.

From today onward, your portrait will hang in this building to remind all those who work here and walk these halls that it is the moments of greatest uncertainty when our obligation is greatest to answer the call of service.

Honored guests, the portrait we have unveiled today is relatively unadorned. But if you look closely, you will see that the books over Attorney General Mukasey’s right shoulder are the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. And so I thought it appropriate to close with one of my favorite quotes from our sixteenth president:

"I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong."

Judge, you led this Department in accordance with those words – and in so doing, you leave for us an enduring legacy of patriotism, integrity, and honor.

Thank you, Judge Mukasey.

And thanks to all of you for joining us here today for this official portrait presentation. Please join me in another round of applause for our guest of honor.

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