Thank you, Your Honor, for those kind words – and thank you all for being here. It’s wonderful to be among so many distinguished jurists, good friends, dedicated colleagues, and proud family members as we gather to mark Kevin Ohlson’s investiture as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
Now, I frequently have the privilege of speaking at swearing-in ceremonies for some of America’s finest legal minds – as they take the bench and pledge their fidelity to the Constitution, in service of the American people. On every one of these occasions, I am proud to stand with these remarkable men and women, and to thank them for their dedication to strengthening the rule of law and bolstering our system of justice.
But it is a particularly great honor for me to be here with you this afternoon – as we celebrate the career of a tremendous public servant, a brave Army officer, a famously adventurous eater, and an extraordinarily talented legal professional – who I also happen to count as a very close colleague and a good friend.
I’m glad to see so many proud members of Kevin’s family in this crowd today – including his mother, Dorothy; his sisters, Kama and Karen; and his brother-in-law, Robert.
And I want to extend a special welcome to Kevin’s wonderful wife, Carolyn – to whom I actually introduced him, many years ago, as some of you may know; their son, Matthew; and their daughter, Katherine. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made over the course of Kevin’s long and distinguished career – in the Army, at the Department of Justice, and beyond.
I know it hasn’t always been easy to be related to such a renowned, respected, and dedicated public servant – whose passion for the law, and determination to help his country address the toughest legal challenges, has often kept him at the office late into the night – and made him absent from too many family dinners and special occasions.
So I not only want to thank you for sharing Kevin with us, and with the American people he has served so well – I also want to applaud the service that each of you has rendered to your country over the years. I know how much Kevin has relied on your support, your patience, and your love. And I thank you for all that you continue to do.
I must admit that I feel a certain amount of responsibility for Kevin’s absences and long hours, since I worked with him in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and later asked him to serve as my chief of staff – not once, but twice: first during my time as Deputy Attorney General, in the Clinton Administration, and again – more than a decade later – when I returned to the Justice Department as Attorney General.
I recognized that the Department, and our nation, faced an array of significant – and in some cases unprecedented – threats and challenges. And that’s why I knew as soon as President Obama asked me to take the job that I would need Kevin in the trenches right next to me – starting on “day one.”
Chief of Staff to the Attorney General is a tough job. It’s not for the faint of heart. It requires energy, commitment – and the skill, wisdom, and temperament to navigate some of the toughest issues that anyone in the Executive Branch will ever face – from thorny legal and policy questions to the challenges associated with managing a Department comprised of more than a hundred thousand employees in offices around the world.
Yet I was confident, when I asked Kevin to rejoin the Department, that he had the discipline – and the drive – to excel in such a demanding position.
I knew that he had displayed those remarkable qualities before. And, over the course of two tumultuous years in that critical role, I saw him demonstrate them again and again.
From helping to restore and revitalize the Justice Department, to contending with urgent national security challenges, confronting civil rights issues, and ensuring the highest standards of professionalism and integrity, Kevin played an integral role in advancing our priorities at the highest levels.
He was an indispensable advisor and confidant – someone with unerring judgment and unwavering dedication. Someone I knew I could rely upon for wise counsel. And someone who always had the best interests of the American people at heart.
Today, as we mark the beginning of his tenure on the bench, I’m certain that his service as a Judge on this distinguished Appeals Court will be defined by the same standards of excellence, the same devotion to duty, and the same sense of honor and integrity that characterized Kevin’s time as at the Justice Department – and that have been the hallmark of his entire career.
From the moment he graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law and received his commission as an officer in the United States Army – where he served as a paratrooper and Judge Advocate – Kevin’s passion for public service has been clear.
A short time later, not long after he first became a federal prosecutor, he was called to active duty – serving in Honduras, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, and earning a Bronze Star for “heroic or meritorious achievement.”
As his career unfolded – and Kevin became an Assistant U.S. Attorney here in the District of Columbia, Chief of Staff to a certain Deputy Attorney General, and Director of the Executive Office of Immigration Review – his profile, and his responsibilities, steadily increased.
And as I think about it, when we worked together in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I seem to recall protracted rubber-band and paperclip fights between Kevin and Monty [Wilkinson] happening right outside my office door. So his level of maturity must have increased, as well.
But Kevin’s sense of idealism, his patriotism – and his faith in the highest ideals of our justice system – have remained constant. They form the rock-solid foundation upon which this man has built a remarkable career of service. And they provide a compass that guides him through even the most trying times.
That’s why, following his service as Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Attorney General, I asked Kevin to serve as Chief of the Justice Department’s Professional Misconduct Review Unit, where he worked tirelessly to ensure – and improve – the quality, integrity, and ethical standards our nation expects of the dedicated career attorneys who carry out the Department’s vital missions every day – faithfully, evenhandedly, and without regard to politics, party, or personal interest.
In this role, as in each of the positions that he has held over the years, Kevin proved his steadfast commitment to acting as a steward of the law – and a servant of those whom it protects and empowers. And he showed his deep devotion to the men and women who stand alongside him in public service – a devotion that begins with the men and women of our armed forces.
That’s why he is uniquely positioned, and superbly qualified, to lend his considerable skill, his extensive experience, and his extraordinary intellect to this important Court.
I know that every decision Kevin renders will be grounded in the law, bound by the weight of precedent, and consistent with the finest traditions of the military and the justice systems he has proudly served. I’m certain that, in every case, in every instance, and in every endeavor, he will do what is necessary – and what is right – in order to build a safer, stronger, and more just society. And he will continue to be a fierce and impartial advocate for the cause of justice – and for the court, and country, he loves.
Kevin, I want you to know how personally grateful I am for all that you’ve done – and all that you have given – in the name of public service. You are a patriot in the truest sense of the word. I have every confidence that you will fulfill your considerable new duties with characteristic honor and ¬¬¬integrity. And I thank you, once again, for your leadership – and your friendship – over the many years I’ve had the great privilege of knowing you.