Department of Justice Seal
Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
EOUSA Director's Award Ceremony
Ronald Reagan Building -- Washington, D.C.
November 17, 2004 -- 2:30 pm


Good afternoon. Thank you, Mary Beth, for that introduction.

It is fitting that this year's Director's Award Ceremony takes place in the Ronald Reagan Building.

President Reagan believed deeply in America's founding vision of freedom -- freedom sustained by individual responsibility and protected by the rule of law. He believed that freedom required dedicated men and women to defend liberty because freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction.

History has confirmed President Reagan's faith in the power of freedom. Today, he is rightfully known as the Great Liberator. Tens of millions of men, women, and children who at one time lived under the yoke of totalitarianism now breath the clear and exhilarating air of freedom.

It is fitting we meet here because the men and women in this room are worthy inheritors of President Reagan's legacy.

President Reagan believed that in free nations the government serves the people. It is the first priority of government to protect the lives and liberties of the citizenry.

Few public servants have done more to serve these noble ideals than you, the men and women who work for law enforcement for the U.S. Attorney's offices around the country.

Your record testifies to your dedication.

Over the past four years, you have put some of our nation's worst offenders behind bars. You protected our citizens from the threat of terrorism. You have liberated hundreds of thousands from the scourge of violent crime. You have proven that citizens need not move in order to be safer and more secure from the toxic threat of illegal drugs or the violence of gun crime. You have maximized the promise, the potential, and the prosperity of millions of your fellow citizens.

For this you receive the heart-felt thanks of a nation.

Each year the Director's Awards single out the best of our attorneys, our support staff, and their law enforcement partners nationwide for their efforts in achieving justice on behalf of the American people.

But first, it is important to recognize what our nation's law enforcement and justice community have accomplished together.

These successes flow from aggressive crime fighting. Thanks to Project Safe Neighborhoods:

Thanks to our Violent Crime Impact Teams, we have forged new ties among state, local, and federal agents and officers to provide the decisive leverage and crucial resources to turn the tide against the hottest zones of crime in 15 specific cities.

Our focus on high-priority offenders is not limited to violent individual predators who plague local communities. Over the past two years alone, we have dismantled 14 major drug-trafficking networks and seriously disrupted eight more.

In addition, we are stopping human trafficking and civil rights violators.

Finally, the Corporate Fraud Task Force has charged more than 900 violators in more than 400 cases since its inception. To date, more than 500 individuals have been convicted, including the prosecution of top executives whom we have shown do not stand above the law.

Most important, because of your leadership and the work of state, local, and federal law enforcement, the United States has been able to prevent major terrorist attacks on American soil for more than three years. You have defied all expectations. You have made this nation safer and more secure.

We have:

These achievements are due to your hard work. Everyone in the United States Department of Justice has played a part.

No job is unimportant. No office can be overlooked. Each one of us has been called to take up part of the burden to ensure we can all achieve more.

One story in particular communicates just how much you have achieved. A young man was recently interviewed for a position as an Assistant United States Attorney. One of the interviewers asked the man why he was pursuing a position that would pay $68,000 when he was making more than $250,000 in private practice. The man answered, "I have a young son, and I want more than anything for him to be able to say that his father is a federal prosecutor."

There is a reason that people today, even young sons, know the important work conducted by the men and women of the Justice Department. This respect is a tribute to the impressive results you have achieved for the American people.

For those receiving awards today, let me commend you for your extraordinary accomplishments.

You have made a difference that has expanded the freedom of the American people, giving them freedom from terrorism, freedom from crime, freedom from the dependency of drugs, freedom from dishonesty and deception in our financial markets.

As you gather today, please look about … at your friends and family and fellow citizens. Your work, your lives, your actions have changed other's lives for the better.

Not only have you achieved impressive results through decisive action, for four years your professional conduct has reflected a dedication to personal integrity, individual responsibility, and high moral standards. We have a sterling record that shows the American people that the honesty and the rule of law begin within the Justice Department every day.

On behalf of the President and the American people, I thank you for your sacrifice and for the high ideals that impel you to take up the cause of justice every day.

Thank you for your efforts to stop terrorism, to prevent violent crime, to prosecute gun crime, halt the flow of drugs, stop corporate fraud, and everything else you do to ensure every American is equal under the law and protected by the United States Constitution.

To your families, I also express my sincerest thanks … for their sacrifice and their inspiration.

To those receiving awards today, I congratulate you on a job well done, and thank you for your service to the Department of Justice, to this nation, and to the highest ideals of the American people.

God bless you and this nation.