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Attorney General Holder Speaks at the 59th Annual Attorney General's Awards Ceremony
Washington, D.C. ~ Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thank you, Jim [Cole].   It is a pleasure to join with you – and with Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, and leaders from across the Justice Department and the Administration – in welcoming some of our most dedicated colleagues, and so many distinguished guests, to what has become one of my favorite events of the year.

 

I’d like to extend a special welcome to Justice [Sonia] Sotomayor, who is here to congratulate one of today’s awardees – her former clerk, and a standout member of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York’s Southern District, Lisa Zornberg.   Thank you for joining us.

 

I’d also like to thank everyone who helped to organize today’s ceremony, especially Deputy Assistant Attorney General [Mari Barr] Santangelo, and her colleagues in the Justice Management Division.

 

This is truly a special occasion.   As we look back on the achievements that have marked the last year, I am grateful for the opportunity to recognize – and to personally thank – 384 extraordinary individuals whose hard work, courage, creativity, and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty has helped to inspire and advance the progress we celebrate today.

 

As we honor the contributions that each of this year’s award recipients has made – and the examples that they have set for their colleagues – I am pleased to see that we are joined by so many of their proud family members and friends.   You are also an important part of the DOJ family.   And I want to thank you – not only for being part of this celebration, but also for the support that you have provided – and the sacrifices that I know you’ve made – to help strengthen our nation’s Department of Justice.

 

This annual Awards Ceremony is a tribute to the commitment that everyone in this room shares: to live up to our nation’s founding ideals, to protect the rights and safety of our fellow citizens, and to ensure that the Department’s long tradition of excellence continues.

 

Three and half decades ago, shortly after I graduated from law school, I jumped at the chance to become a prosecutor in the Public Integrity Section.   Working for the Justice Department was my dream job.   And the reason was simple: I wanted to learn from the very best.   I wanted to work alongside the most talented lawyers and public servants in the country – men and women who were on the front lines of efforts to improve our nation; to strengthen our communities; to ensure justice and opportunity for all; and to protect, enrich – and even save – lives.

 

Today, I continue to be struck – and inspired – by the intelligence, skills, and unwavering dedication of my colleagues.   I still consider serving the Justice Department to be my dream job.   And, each day, I am reminded that I am learning from – and working with – the very best.   

 

Without question, the Department’s 117,000 employees include some of the most effective and impressive public servants in all of government.   And yet - even among this group – the 384 individuals we recognize today have stood out.  In a variety of ways, they have succeeded in making our nation better, fairer, and more secure.

           

Of course, this hasn’t been easy.

 

Across our entire government – and for every Justice Department component – over the last year, demands have been growing.   But, as everyone here knows all too well, budgets have not.   More often than I expected – or any of us would have liked – I have been forced to take difficult – and, at times, painful – steps to cut costs.   But I have refused to take any action that would compromise the Department’s ability to fulfill our most essential mission of protecting the American people.

           

That means I’ve asked each of you to do more with less; to work harder; to be more strategic and collaborative; and to leverage each precious taxpayer dollar.      

 

At every turn, you have responded – not with frustration, but with resolve.   You have risen to every challenge.   And you’ve demonstrated an understanding of the fact that, as the Department’s responsibilities have increased, fulfilling them has never been more important.

 

This year’s award recipients have faced – and overcome – unprecedented challenges, obstacles, and threats.   And although none of you sought any special recognition for your work, all of you deserve it.  

 

This afternoon, as we celebrate these extraordinary men and women, let us also pause to remember the award recipients who are no longer with us – and who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.

 

Today, we have reserved a special place of honor for two Deputy U.S. Marshals – from the Northern District of West Virginia and the Eastern District of Missouri – who lost their lives in the line of duty this past year: Deputy Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller and Deputy Marshal John Perry.  

 

Shortly after their tragic and untimely deaths, I had the privilege of joining with the families of these two heroes, as we celebrated their extraordinary lives.

 

Both Derek and John exemplified public service as its finest.   Throughout their careers, they exhibited a rare courage and selflessness, as well as a willingness to put the safety of others above their own.   While working to protect their fellow citizens from harm, they were taken from us far too soon.   But their enduring contributions – and their examples – will never be forgotten.   And I have no doubt that the award recipients we recognize today – as well as our colleagues and counterparts across the Department – will continue to carry on, and to carry forward, their work.

 

Today, as we reflect on the past and look toward the future, I am confident that the contributions we celebrate will help to strengthen our ongoing work.   And I am certain that I can continue to expect great things from all of this year’s awardees.

 

On behalf of the entire Department of Justice – as well as President Obama and the entire Administration – I thank you for your service.   I am privileged – and very grateful – to count you as my colleagues.   And I am proud to join your family members and friends in commending each of you on a job well done.  

 

Congratulations.

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