Department of Justice Seal

Letter to the American People

I have had the privilege of meeting with and speaking with many of you on numerous occasions over the past four years. Today, with gratitude toward my fellow Americans, I address you near the close of my time as the Attorney General of the United States.

On November 2nd, I submitted to the President my resignation from the office of Attorney General. The noble work of justice preceded my appointment to this office and it will continue after I am gone. But my official service to this great cause is drawing to a close. We have accomplished what we set out to accomplish almost four years ago. I am blessed to leave public office in a nation that is safer and stronger than the one I found; a nation in which the flame of freedom illuminates every American and burns a signal fire to a watching world.

And as I graduate from public service to citizen service, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the people and institutions that made my service possible.

I am grateful first to you, the American people, for your partnership in the defense of freedom. As never before, protecting the nation and securing our liberties has brought together public officials and private citizens, the Justice community and the American community. The partnership the men and women of the Justice Department have forged with the American people has seen our nation through the worst attack in its history and has endured to produce an historic era of safety and security. Violent crime is at its lowest rate in three decades. Gun crime prosecutions are at a record high and violent crimes committed with guns are at a record low. Drug use among the nation's youth is declining. Corporate criminals are facing justice, and integrity has been restored to the nation's marketplace.

No group of individuals could have aspired to such achievement. No organizational plan could have credibly predicted such success. But in a uniquely American way this generation of Americans has done what so many said could not be done: We have safeguarded both the security and liberty of our fellow Americans in a time of war.

I am deeply grateful to President George W. Bush for the opportunity to serve the American people. Those who know me know that one of the beliefs that have shaped my life is this: In everything we do, we teach those around us. For the past four years, President Bush has taught Americans. His leadership has inspired leadership in others. His courage has made us braver and better advocates for the cause of freedom.

It has been my great honor to serve in his cabinet. I have had the privilege of working alongside a group of men and women of both extraordinary focus and generosity; a group that has shown both discipline in achieving the President's goals and open-mindedness in accommodating healthy and heartfelt disagreement.

Lastly, I am grateful to God for each day the sun rises on a safe and free America. For the past three years, my every working day has begun with a report – a catalog of the murderous acts being plotted against Americans. That we have passed these three years in safety and security is a credit to the men and women with whom I serve. But it would be the height of arrogance to assume we achieved this alone. The Psalms remind us: “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stands guard in vain.”

My fellow Americans, for four years we have stood watch together. We have endured many things and we have accomplished many more. It has been the honor of my lifetime to stand beside you. And as I take my leave of this privileged post, I know that our efforts have not been in vain. The Builder of our city and the Author of our freedom has stood beside us. He stands beside us still.

John Ashcroft
Attorney General of the United States

Department of Justice Successes: The Past 4 Years