Justice News

Associate Attorney General Tony West at the at the Department of Justice Diversity and Inclusion Speaker Series
United States
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thank you, Richard [Parker] for that kind introduction, and thanks for your outstanding work to advance the Attorney General’s Diversity Management Initiative.  Let me also take a moment to recognize and thank Richard Toscano of the Justice Management Division’s Equal Employment Opportunity Staff; our colleagues at the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the Office of Legal Education, and the National Advocacy Center – all of whom spent long hours organizing this event; and last but not least, the members and staff of the Diversity Management Advisory Council – they are doing the critical work of moving our diversity management agenda forward in their components and offices, and we could not do this work without them.  

 Today’s event is the fifth in our speaker series on diversity and inclusion and for today's program, we are fortunate to have the Department's leading voice on diversity and inclusion, the Attorney General of the United States.  I'll have the honor of introducing the Attorney General in a moment; before I do, let me share with you briefly why I think today's program, and the Attorney General's Diversity Management Initiative more generally, is so important.

 The Attorney General often says that the strength and credibility of this Department "is rooted in the fact that our workforce includes qualified individuals whose backgrounds reflect our nation’s rich diversity."  But if this is true -- and I believe it is -- then why is it so?

 We come from different backgrounds and different experiences.  What is familiar and comfortable to us may seem strange and uneasy to someone else.  Our differences may be as obvious as our accent or as private as our faith, and we learn from an early age, as schoolchildren desperate to fit in, that difference is often the lightning rod of ridicule and stereotype and exclusion.

 But diversity is our strength.  It's our strength because this Department's greatest resource is its people, and talent comes in all human forms, from all backgrounds and every shape, size or color, and this institution must always fortify itself with the best and broadest talent pool it can find if it is to remain strong and resilient.

 It's our strength because we can make better decisions as an organization when we have different viewpoints assembled around the same table, bringing different perspectives and experiences to bear on difficult problems to forge creative solutions.

 It's our strength because the best recruitment and management practices are those that implement diversity and inclusion principles; because we know from experience and research that the most productive workplaces -- workplaces where employees are more creative, better team members, less likely to leave, and more resilient -- those are workplaces where respect and inclusion are guiding imperatives; where opportunities for professional development and promotion are open to all who have the will, desire and ability to succeed. 

 So diversity is our strength for all these reasons, and more.  But there's something else -- something unique to Justice Department employees.

 Diversity is our strength because, simply put:  we cannot succeed at our mission as a Department without consistently employing diversity and inclusion principles -- a mission that calls on each of us to, and I quote, "ensure [the] full and impartial administration of justice for all Americans."

 The full and impartial administration of justice, for all Americans -- regardless of what they may look like, where they're from or what they believe, who they love or how they worship.   It's a mission that requires each of us to step outside of our own experience, beyond our own presumptions, and rise above those biases regularly found in the human condition.  It asks us to offer the reassurance that the decisions we make to protect the security, the rights and the interests of the American people will be untainted by prejudgment, stereotype or favoritism.

 We cannot be who we are as a Department without embracing diversity and the value it brings.  So over the next decades, as the nation we serve becomes increasingly diverse, this Department will continue to promote practices that enable all employees to excel in their work.  Attorney General Holder institutionalized the Department’s commitment to diversity by issuing the Department’s Diversity Management Plan in 2010.  And to ensure the success of the plan and our overall Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, the Department formed the Diversity Management Advisory Council, which I currently chair, to coordinate department-wide diversity management efforts. 

As a result of these efforts, we've made substantial progress, even in the face of extraordinary budget challenges.  We have formulated and evaluated strategies for increasing diversity across the Department at all levels.  We've identified hiring and management best practices, currently featured on our diversity intranet site.  We've instituted diversity management accountability measures for managers and supervisors, and undertaken several important, innovative projects, such as our FedRecruit Disability Hiring Initiative, the Indian Country Cultural Training video project, and a pilot Diversity and Inclusion Dialogue Program.

And now, after nearly three years, we can finally hire many more employees, which gives us the opportunity to renew our commitment to diversity and inclusion by recruiting, hiring, professionally developing, and promoting the best and broadest talent from all backgrounds.

So that's our charge.  Let me close by sharing with you an experience that I think illustrates the essence of why we're here today.

 Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at a naturalization ceremony for 700 newly sworn-in American citizens.  We were in a large auditorium -- a wonderful cacophony of balloons and flowers, homemade signs, proud parents, laughing children, and crying babies -- it felt very much like a huge graduation. 

Seven hundred people from over 100 different countries.  And when you looked into that crowd, it was like you were looking at the UN General Assembly:  people of all ethnicities and races, of every age and income, a kaleidoscope of different dress styles and native tongues. 

And then there came this moment during the ceremony, after everyone had taken the citizenship oath in unison, when everyone proudly pulled out miniature American flags and started waving them furiously.  All of a sudden this auditorium of people distinguished by their differences became awash in red, white and blue -- everyone bound together by a shared identity; bound together by an idea, this bold experiment in self-government we call the United States of America.

It was a moment that reflected what has been called, "the genius of America . . . that out of the many we can become one."

It's an idea that animates the diversity and inclusion work we are committed to -- work that is only prioritized when leadership makes it so; leadership like the kind we've had from our next speaker.

As U.S. Attorney, a judge, Deputy Attorney General and now the leader of this great Department, our next speaker has pushed for increasing the diversity of the legal profession throughout his entire career.  His commitment to diversity has been visionary and unwavering, and is manifesting itself as a stronger, better DOJ workforce.  It's been a privilege to serve under his leadership, so please join me in welcoming the nation's 82nd Attorney General, Eric Holder.

Updated September 17, 2014