Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks by Attorney General John Ashcroft
Crime Victim Service Awards Ceremony with President George W. Bush
Department of Justice - The Great Hall
April 16, 2002

     Good morning, and welcome.

     It's appropriate that we gather here at the Department of Justice to honor the private citizens who also seek justice, the victim advocates who support the victims of violent crime. There were millions of victims of violent crime last year, but too often in the quest for justice, the rights of these victims were overlooked or ignored. It is time --it is past time -- to balance the scales of justice, to demand fairness and judicial integrity not just for the accused but for the aggrieved, as well.

     I am grateful to members of the Congress who are here today, and I thank in particular Senators John Kyl and Dianne Feinstein for their work to protect the rights of victims.

     Although government cannot offer the one thing that victims wish for most, and that's a return to the way life was before violence intruded, government can do more than it has done in the past. We can offer victims a new guarantee of inclusion in the process of justice. We can show our support with that of a bipartisan group of lawmakers for a constitutional amendment to ensure that the victims of crime have their rights, including the right to participate, the right to be heard, and the right to decisions that consider the safety of victims.

     This Justice Department is committed to putting the interests of victims and their families first.

     Victims have a right to more information, not less. So when we recovered the cockpit recorder from one of the September 11th flights, we shared it with the families.

     Victims have a right to more choices, not fewer choices. So we gave the victims of Oklahoma City the option of witnessing the execution of Timothy McVeigh.

     And victims have a right to more compassion. So the special master for the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund is working tirelessly to provide relief to those injured in the attacks of September 11th.

     Today we rededicate ourselves and our government to the cause that victim advocates have long championed. Victim advocates exemplify the model of service to our nation that President Bush has challenged all Americans to emulate. You have made a difference in the lives of victims and in the strength of your communities and of your nations. We are grateful for victim advocates.

     It's now my privilege to introduce a man who also has been dedicated long in the effort to protect the rights of victims of crime, a man who has inspired all of us to serve, in his words, "causes larger than ourselves." Over the last year I've had the opportunity to work side by side with this president to see first-hand his dedication to seeking justice, to building a stronger, safer America, and providing for those whose lives have been disrupted by acts of crime and terrorism a sense of wholeness. We've been blessed with his leadership.

     Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the president of the United States, George W. Bush.