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Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the 57th Annual Attorney General Awards Ceremony
Washington, D.C. ~ Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Good afternoon.

I’d like to welcome everyone here today to the 57th Annual Attorney General Awards Ceremony. I see a lot of familiar faces here, and I would use up all my time if I were to recognize everyone, but I would particularly like to thank Mari Barr Santangelo for emceeing today and of course the Deputy Attorney General David Ogden for helping me honor these recipients. I’d also like to recognize Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has a personal connection to one of our recipients, and thank her for joining us.

I’ve been looking forward to this ceremony for quite some time. Ever since the initial recommendations for award recipients came across my desk, I’ve been excited to meet the men and women whose accomplishments are so richly deserving of this recognition.

These are people who, quite frankly, make me feel like a bit of an underachiever. And I’m the Attorney General.

The dedicated servants whom we honor today have sacrificed time away from their families working long hours, often miles away from home. Those family members also deserve recognition today. They too have sacrificed in order to allow our awardees to do the great work for which we honor them today. On behalf of a grateful nation I say "thank you" to you all as well.

Ours obviously is a talented and hardworking group of people, but it is also a group whose achievements truly run the gamut.

We have employees from every division and from components throughout the Department, from the Marshals Service and ATF to the Office of Professional Responsibility and Justice Management Division, all of whose component heads are represented behind me. There are recipients from U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and even people who don’t actually work for the Department.

There are recipients with only a few years of federal career service, and those who’ve served for decades. There are even some people on this list receiving multiple awards. I’m looking at you, Ed Kneedler.

Today we honor individuals for their work in bringing two racially motivated offenders to justice. We honor a team for the first ever prosecution of a foreign political leader for laundering proceeds of political corruption, fraud, and extortion through financial institutions in the U.S. There are two BOP officers who saved an inmate’s life, and another who saved the life of a fellow officer from an inmate’s attack.

We honor recipients for their work in making government more transparent and efficient, for successful prosecutions of corruption, gangs, and racketeering, for protecting our streets against child sex offenders, and for protecting our homeland against terrorist threats.

From lawyers based here in Washington, to an HVAC foreman in a Virginia penitentiary, to the top Justice official in Baghdad, all these men and women have served with distinction.

The recipients we honor here today could all be making a lot more money working somewhere else, and could certainly spend more time with their families doing other jobs. But they have all answered the call to duty, the call to service that binds us together.

I say to the recipients, "These awards are just a token of our gratitude." But today you have not just my sincere gratitude, but the knowledge that you have all truly done justice on behalf of the American people.

Engraved on the walls of the main Department of Justice building is the inscription, "Law alone can give us freedom." That quote contains profound truths, yet it is also true that without your work, the law is nothing more than an ephemeral ideal. It is the dedicated work of committed servants like you who uphold and enforce the law that breathes life into that inscription, and guarantees the freedom we all cherish.

So thank you for all you do for this Department, and thank you for all you do for the American people. And thank you again for being here today.

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