Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
at the Attorney General’s Annual Awards Ceremony

Washington, D.C.
September 12, 2006

Good afternoon. This is one of my favorite events of the year. It’s a pleasure to be gathered here for this recognition, for this celebration of some of the Department’s finest employees.

I want to thank Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and the Incentive Awards Board for their work to make this event possible. Recognition of outstanding service is an important and worthy mission, and I appreciate the fact that the awards panel goes the extra mile to make this day truly special for the recipients and their families.

We have a number of special guests sharing in this celebration, thank you all for taking the time to be here.

Today’s award recipients make me proud to be their colleague. They make me proud to be an American. Their dedication and achievements remind me why it is an honor to serve at the Department of Justice.

Because this is not “just a job” – not for any of us.

Helping hurricane victims is not “just a job.” Putting drug traffickers, terrorists, and would-be terrorists behind bars is not “just a job.” Saving a child from a sexual predator is not “just a job.”

What we do at the Department of Justice is answer a call of duty.

People who will be honored here today have gone far above and beyond that honorable call of duty – some have even put their lives at risk while enforcing our Nation’s laws… while delivering justice. And I imagine that each one of them would say that their accomplishments wouldn’t have been possible without their colleagues and their families.

So I want to acknowledge the colleagues and the families as well as the award recipients. Because these honors belong to them as well.

Yesterday’s five year anniversary was a reminder of many things – one of which was the fact that so many of the victims of the September 11th attacks perished – or survived – alongside their co-workers.

In New York, co-workers joined together to carry colleagues in wheelchairs down countless flights of stairs. At the Pentagon, military and civilian personnel alike helped each other out of the smoke, to safety.

And public servants – firefighters, police officers and emergency medical personnel – ran into the flames together to do their jobs.

These stories remind us: Our work as public servants at the Department of Justice isn’t “just a job” and our colleagues aren’t “just” co-workers.

We are a family at work. And sometimes it’s our dedication to each other that leads to our success.

Like families, we care about each other. Like families, mutual respect helps us rise above any petty differences.

Sometimes our jobs require us to spend more waking hours with our professional families than our actual families, at home. And so it is with many of today’s award recipients. That sacrifice is a two-way street: Justice employees are sacrificing time with loved ones for service to their country, and those loved ones are making a sacrifice for the public good as well.

So to the husbands and wives, children and parents and other loved ones in the audience today – thank you for your sacrifices. Thank you for understanding that what your husband, your wife, your mommy, your daddy was doing was worth the sacrifice.

We all need to remember that there remains nothing more important for a professional than the reward of going home at the end of the day, and nothing more fulfilling than the smile of a child or the embrace of a loving partner. Our goal is to create a better environment, a safer neighborhood for all our children. We risk all to maintain a country where the dreams of a little boy or girl can still come true.

We are better at work because of the love and encouragement that we receive at home. It is with that knowledge that I thank the friends and family who have gathered today, and with that knowledge that I remind all Department of Justice employees to take the time to be re-fueled and rewarded by relationships at home.

When you come to work in the morning, there are people who care about you, too. In fact, some of them are the ones who nominated you for your awards. Which makes this a day of family celebration all around.

There are so many wonderful stories to be told and heard today, so I won’t take any more time. I am looking forward to the ceremony ahead, and I hope that everyone here is inspired by their colleagues, their family, their friends.

I know I am.

Thank you all for your outstanding service to this wonderful and blessed United States of America.