Justice News

Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the Philadelphia Reentry Court
United States
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

 I’ve got to say, this is really heartwarming to see what you all are doing with your lives.  There are a whole bunch of different paths I’m sure that brought you to this place, and other paths that took you to places that you didn’t want to be.  But the question is, you know, what do you do when you’re faced with a negative situation?

Everybody fails at something, everybody does.  I have.  And the question is, what do you do with those failures.  And I think that what we’ve seen here today gives me a great deal of hope and gives me faith that what we’re trying to do with the Justice Department in supporting programs like this one is the right thing to do. 

I’ve said in speeches, you know, we can’t incarcerate our way out of the problems that confront us as a nation, that there are issues that we have to deal with.I’ve seen a bunch of strong men who came in here today and who are trying to make better their lives and I think it’s our obligation -- it’s my obligation as Attorney General to try to help you in that -- in that way, and we’re not fundamentally different. 

You know, that’s the other thing.  I think you all have to understand something.  I’m a kid who grew up in Queens in New York.  You’re all probably like Philadelphia athletic fans and all that stuff -- and I don’t hold that against you, you know, the Phillies.  And, you know, the Knicks -- do we have any New York Knicks fans here?  We need to stay close so I can see them.  But we’re not fundamentally different, you know?

I grew up in a neighborhood in Queens where guys like you would have been my boys, you know?  We’d have played ball together, we’d have partied together, we’d have done a whole variety of things and I’ve seen guys who were my friends who, you know, didn’t have just the breaks. 

Things didn’t work out.  Things didn’t work out for them and I try to keep that in my mind as I go through my professional career as an Attorney General not to lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day, we’re dealing with human beings who are dealing with issues. 

Life is not sometimes fair, you know, and we have to acknowledge that as well.  The question is how do you deal with that unfairness.  It will not be easy.  The path that you’re on, you’ve proven to be successful with the certificates that you’ve gotten. 

It’s good to hear the reports that you have shared with the Judge, but the reality is there are still going to be negative things that you’re going to have to deal with on the path that you’re on, but you have to resolve -- resolve to be strong, you know?

Find that strength that got you to this place, hold on to that strength to deal with the issues that you will continue to have to confront.  You can be successful.  You have been successful, and there’s no reason why, you know, this positive path that you’re on can’t keep going. 

There might be detours, you know, there are going to be -- I mean, if you look at my four and a half years as Attorney General, you can see there are detours, you know?  There are negatives that you have to deal with.  But the question is how do you -- how do you deal with those negative things. 
It is for me -- and some of it’s kind of emotional because a few of you came up here who reminded me of people who I grew up with in Queens, a couple guys who aren’t with me anymore who are near and dear to me who, you know, got in the wrong situation, made some bad decisions and, you know, didn’t make it -- people who grew up on my block, 101st Street, 24th Avenue in Queens.  Guys who had to deal with drug issues. 

ou know, good guys, guys like you -- guys like you, you know, who want to do the right things, who want to be responsible, who want to be good fathers, you know, like the Judge said.  You know, that’s an inner-core thing.  It’s who you are.  It’s really who you are.  Never forget that.  Never forget that. 

So I’m proud to be up here and I’m glad to be up here.  I’m proud of each and every one of you and I expect to hear good things about all of you.  This is a unique opportunity that you have and you’ve got to seize that opportunity, and this is a program that is really worthwhile.  This is a chance. 
It’s a chance.  Make the most of it.  Don’t make excuses, you know?  If you’ve got to get up in the morning, get up.  If you’re tired, deal with that fatigue, you know?  Don’t find excuses not to do the things that you know you’ve got to do.  Whatever the problem, whatever the obstruction, whatever the issue that you have to deal with, figure out how you can get around it. 

Every one of you is smart, every one of you knows how to deal, you know, with life, so use the skills that you have and use them in a positive way -- whether you’re an EMT, whether you’re working in restaurants -- whatever it is, there’s real value in the work that you do and the contributions that you can make, and that’s something that you should really understand. 

There are kids and younger people who are going to be looking at you all and who are going to learn from you, from your example.  You have a unique opportunity and I think a responsibility to give something back and to make better the lives of those youngsters who will be looking up to you.  In some ways, you know, they can identify with you more than they can identify with me, you know? 

They see me with a suit, tie, maybe on TV every once in a while, you know, getting hammered in a congressional hearing or whatever.  That’s different.  You guys are more real-world to them and you have a responsibility to that next generation. 

You do, you know?  As men of color you have an obligation to them.  You have to put your arms around them, you have to make sure that they learn from the mistakes that you’ve made.  You’ve got to be honest with them about the dangers that they’re going to face, and you have to help them find the way so that they can have -- you know, positive lives, and not, you know, make the mistakes that you made. 

Or if they are on a path that’s going to lead them to something negative, you have got to figure out how to get them back on the right path.  You have that ability, you really do.  You really do, and you have to accept that responsibility as well. 

So again, I thank you all so much for allowing me to observe what it is that I guess you guys go through on a periodic basis.  I’m going to follow up and kind of just keep in touch in some form or fashion and see how you guys make out over the coming months and years and I expect to hear, as I say, great things -- great things from all of you, all right?

So keep it up, do well, be positive and remember that responsibility you have to the youngsters.