Department of Justice Seal

Attorney General Ashcroft Transcript

Remarks to the Executive Office for US Attorneys Director’s Awards Ceremony
November 30, 2001

ASHCROFT: Please be seated. Thank you.


Thank you.

I tell you what, I want to thank Effy Ellis (ph) one more time.


I don't want to micro-manage, but I think, if Effy (ph) had sung that song first, and then we'd come to the National Anthem, there wouldn't have been anybody not singing.


You know, it just seems to me that it made me want to go do it all over again. What a great thing. I'll stand next to her any day to defend this land, and then the (inaudible) Lee Greenwood (ph) wrote some great words there.


I did lead the applause for Bob Mueller.


I tell you what, U.S. attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys have populated the most strategic places in the United States government, and they do it with quality and integrity and dignity and vision. The good book says, ``Where there's no vision, the people perish.'' Well, frankly, where there is vision, people prosper.

And Bob's doing a great job. And so is Asa Hutchinson, another U.S. attorney that's now running the Drug Enforcement Administration. And I'm not going to go down the list of all the former U.S. attorneys--and obviously, Larry is a former U.S. attorney, and he's running the Justice Department so I can go out and make speeches and do other things.


It's just, this is the way it is. I'm thrilled. And I'm grateful, and I'm inspired every time I see the good work of people. When Abraham Lincoln walked onto the battlefield at Gettysburg, he sought to inspire people by citing the deeds of those who had gone before, those who had died.

This is a memorial to those who have lived and keep on living and keep on working and keep on giving. Lincoln put it this way, ``The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.'' He understood this incredible distinction between that which is said and that which is done--work.

And this is a ceremony to honor those who have worked. Of course we honor those who died, not only those who died in New York, Pennsylvania.

ASHCROFT: And yesterday, I was with this outstanding group of patriotic Americans, and we stood outside the damaged wall of the Pentagon. I wanted the U.S. attorneys to visit ground zero to develop a sense of the urgency and intensity of our responsibility and our opportunity.

And I'll bet you, a goodly number of this group walked around with me in the midst of the evening--was that Wednesday night? I think it was--where we walked the monuments. We visited the Washington Monument to acquaint ourselves with the values that undergird the foundation of this country and went to the Jefferson Memorial to see the language that articulates so clearly the freedom that we believe the Creator has given us. And we went to the Lincoln Memorial to understand that holding the nation together was, perhaps, even more difficult than bringing it into existence.

And so that we would remember that this had not come without cost and this was not a cheap experience, we enjoy the experience of freedom, we visited the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial. Interesting memorials they are, the Vietnamese is the names of those who have died. It's very modest. It's faceless names. And the Korean Memorial, on the other side, is all faces, but no names.

But it's all Americans who have thought so much of freedom that they were not only willing to defend it here at home, but they understood that freedom is interconnected and that we've been a part of defending it around the world, and that takes us to the chore, to the task, to the opportunity, to the duty, to the responsibility we now enjoy together of defending freedom again. ASHCROFT: It is an honor to serve in times like these. And I can't tell you how inspired I am to serve with you.

One of the great privileges I have as attorney general is to speak on occasions like this that honor men and women of the Justice Department, at the same time to pay an unspoken tribute to the role of family and service to the nation. When Justice honors it's own, the hall is often filled, as it is today, with husbands and wives, children and parents of honorees. Their presence is a reminder that our service to our country is a part of our life. And our life is always understood best when we recognize that in everything we do we teach; it's a lesson to those around us.

When we sacrifice for the cause of justice, we value of the cause of justice. We teach others that there are things more important than we are ourselves, things that we will give ourselves to. Causes and struggles and principles that transcend us; things that are worth sacrificing for.

The past two and a half months have underscored for millions of Americans the degree to which we look to the men and women of the Justice community and the Justice Department and law enforcement for our safety and security. Most of you accepted your great responsibilities at a different time in America. Since that time, the sacrifices your country has asked you to make, and your families to make, has grown substantially. We come together today to acknowledge your outstanding service, to honor your extraordinary commitments and sacrifice and, finally, yes, not only to recognize, but to express our profound thanksgiving and gratitude for what each individual who moves the cause of justice forward contributes.

ASHCROFT: Just as it is our service men and women who are fighting overseas who have brought an end to one of the most barbaric and dictatorial regimes in history, it is you, prosecutors, agents, law enforcement in the field, who will win the war on terrorism at home.

We're standing firm in our commitment to defend the nation and its citizens. The president has said it often. It bears repeating. The United States and its citizens are at war with terror. Our response has been to wage a deliberate campaign and arrest and detention of violators and suspected terrorists in order to protect American lives. We are removing suspected terrorists who violate the law from our streets. We have refocused our institutional priorities and resources. We are forging new relationships of cooperation with state and local officials. We have created task forces to integrate the resources of our law enforcement community around the country. We have interviewed groups of individuals we think might be ideally and specially situated in a way to help us avoid the additional carnage of a subsequent attack. And we have never forgotten that this attack was not an attack merely on America. We have understood that 86 nations lost lives in the September 11 terrorist attack.

Our efforts have been deliberate, they've been coordinated, they've been carefully crafted to not only protect America but to respect the Constitution and the rights enshrined therein.

Still, there have been a few voices who have criticized. Some have sought to condemn us with faulty facts or without facts at all. Others have simply rushed to judgment, almost eagerly assuming the worst of their government before they've had a chance to understand it at its best. But these voices of negativism cannot obscure the chorus of freedom that is the gathering force in the world today.

ASHCROFT: Overseas the ranks of the free and liberated are growing with each passing day, and here at home, through dozens of warnings to law enforcement, through a deliberate campaign of terrorist disruption, tighter security around potential targets, et cetera, America has grown stronger. You can feel it in the pulse of the community. You can understand it in the intensity of the classroom. You can see it in places that are unanticipated.

As I drive from my row house on Capitol Hill to Regan Airport, I go by--on the highway and overpass, under which is located a set of skids and cardboard that constitute the shelter for an individual who lives on the street. On that side of that cardboard shelter is an American flag. And it helps us define a sense of unity that goes all the way from the cardboard shelter to the White House of the United States, all the way from ground zero in New York City to the uttermost reach of the Hawaiian Islands, all the way from Canada to Mexico. Yes, it pervades the American culture and it is a commitment to the freedom we enjoy and a dedication to its preservation. There is a unity and strength that exists in America today, for which we can be grateful and about which we ought to celebrate, and it represents you and your work.


Frankly, we cannot know which acts of terrorism we have deferred, how many we have prevented.

ASHCROFT: But we can say that thanks to the vigilance of law enforcement, thanks to the patience of the American people, we know this, that we have not suffered another major terrorist attack. The homefront has witnessed the opening battle in the war against terrorism, and America is victorious. We have trusted the American people to act responsibly and to face the threats, and that trust has paid off overwhelmingly in support of this great nation and our community which must be secure.

We are heartened by the support of the American people, not just a signal of public appreciation, but an expression of public trust that has attended your efforts and ours, and we are grateful.

Our efforts at all times and in all ways are directed toward nurturing and preserving that trust. This Justice Department is a department that will never waver in its defense of the Constitution nor relent in its protection of the civil rights of Americans. The American spirit which rose from the rabble of New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, knows no prejudice and it defies division by race, ethnicity or religion. The spirit which binds us and the values which define us will light our path as we identify and locate and incapacitate those who murder in the name of terror.

Many of you who are here this morning attended the United States Attorneys Conference here in Washington this week. We've had a great opportunity at that time to reinforce our understanding of what it means to be Americans, the value of service. We've spent time together. We've celebrated the opportunity we enjoy.

When we ended our tour that I mentioned earlier at the Lincoln Memorial, etched on the north wall of the Lincoln Memorial is the second inaugural speech.

ASHCROFT: And I think it was Bob Conrad (ph), I went over and put an arm around his shoulder. And I said, ``Let's read this thing aloud together.'' Delivered just a month before he was assassinated, in the midst of a great Civil War, Lincoln's closing words are themselves a monument to the courage, to the perseverance, to the compassion expressed in the American spirit and in the American people. They are as hopeful and they are as inspiring today as they were 136 years ago, as they were Wednesday night when they echoed in the midst of that evening.

They are these words: ``With malice, toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right. Let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have born the battle and for his widow and for his orphan. To do (ph) all, which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.''

Today, as we go forth to finish the work we are in, let us strive for justice as God gives us to see the right to see justice, to protect the innocent, to vanquish the evil, to achieve a lasting peace among all peoples of the Earth. This is a day for us to recognize, to respect and to express our gratitude for your hard work. Thank you for your leadership. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.