President Bush, Chief Justice Roberts, members of the Cabinet, members of Congress, former Attorneys General, family and friends, and my colleagues of the United States Department of Justice
The program for this ceremony reports that after I was confirmed on November 8, 2007, I entered on duty the following day, on November 9, 2007 — and, in a sense, I did. I came to the Justice Department building on that day and took the oath before a small group — including my family and some of the talented people who work on the fifth floor — and become authorized, technically, to perform the duties of the office.
But let there be no mistake about it — in my mind and heart I was in no meaningful sense the Attorney General until I took that oath a moment ago — here, in this building, before you who are physically here and before you who serve in divisions and units and field offices of this great Department throughout this country and around the world.
I have said previously that much has changed since 1972, when I took the same oath I took today to serve in the United States attorney‘s office, and indeed it has. There are laws on the books today that did not exist when I was sworn in then, and there are problems that confront us now that did not confront us then, mainly but not entirely involving the threat to our security from those who believe it is their religious duty to make war on us.
But the oath, of course, has stayed the same. And so in many ways has the nature of the work — the work that I did then and that you have been doing before I arrived here. You are, all of you, involved, day to day, in applying regulations or rules or laws or provisions of the constitution you have all sworn to protect, a sworn promise in which I joined this morning.
What each person here does, on a day to day basis, is law. If that sounds prosaic and rather limited, try thinking for a moment about the alternative, where the results depends on the opinion of one person or a group of people as to what they feel is right. We don‘t do simply what seems fair and right according to our own tastes and standards.
But when you step back and look at the thousands of decisions that are made every day under those rules and regulations and laws and Constitutional provisions that this Department enforces — the cases you handle, the prisoners in your care, the investigations you pursue — when you look at that, the result is something glorious. The result is what gives this Department its name. We do law, but the result is justice. And that is why our ultimate client — the people of this country — can and do rest secure in the knowledge that our unswerving allegiance is to the law and the Constitution, and that the result of faithful performance of our duty is justice.
That is the great work that each of you and all of you were doing before I showed up here this morning and took the same oath that you had already taken. But the reason why I believe that I was not in any meaningful sense the Attorney General until I came before you here is that my job involves not only an oath, but also a pledge, which I now give you.
And that is to use all of the strength of mind and body that I have to help you to continue to protect the freedom and the security of the people of this country — and their civil rights and liberties — through the neutral and even-handed application of the constitution and the laws enacted under it; to ask myself in every decision I make whether it helps you to do that; to take the counsel not only of my own insights but also of yours, and to pray that I can help give you the leadership you deserve.
Thank you for welcoming me; it‘s great to be back.