Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be back in Chicago this afternoon – among so many friends, colleagues, and distinguished guests. And it’s a privilege to join Chief Judge [Ruben] Castillo and his colleagues from the U.S. District Court and the 7th Circuit; Illinois’ outstanding U.S. Senators, Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk; Chicago Police Superintendent [Garry] McCarthy; Cook County State’s Attorney [Anita] Alvarez – and so many current and former members of the United States Attorney community – as we celebrate the achievements, and mark the official swearing-in, of our new U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Zach Fardon.
I’d like to extend a special welcome to Zach’s wife, Rachel; their kids, Harriet, Oscar, and Charles; Zach’s parents, David and Judy; his brother, Alex; and his sister-in-law, Terry. Thank you all for making today’s ceremony so special. I also want to acknowledge each of Zach’s current and former colleagues who has taken the time to be with us this afternoon. Your presence is a testament to the skilled attorney, and the dedicated leader, we’ve gathered to honor. And your continued support will be critical to his success moving forward.
Over the course of a remarkable and highly-varied career – spanning more than two decades of service to the legal profession – Zach Fardon has demonstrated his commitment to the cause of justice, and to the highest ideals of America’s legal system. From his time at Vanderbilt Law School, to his service as an Assistant Public Defender in the great city of Nashville; his work in private practice; and his leadership as an Assistant U.S. Attorney here in Chicago and in the Middle District of Tennessee – Zach has won the respect, and the admiration, of all who have had the privilege of working alongside him. It’s evident in his words – and in his deeds – that he approaches his duties as a prosecutor with the unique perspective of someone who has stood on both sides of the courtroom. And it’s clear that his past experience will ensure that every decision he makes is infused with an appropriate measure of balance, of fairness, and of empathy.
At the same time, there can be no question that Zach has what it takes to make the tough choices, and tackle the challenging issues, that every U.S. Attorney must confront. Over the years, he has established an impressive record as a federal prosecutor, taking on difficult, complex, and high-profile cases – including the prosecution of a former governor. He has stood on the front lines of our nation’s fight against terrorism, serving on the Joint Terrorism Task Force during his tenure as First Assistant U.S. Attorney in Nashville. And he has also shown his determination – in just the few short weeks he’s been on the job – to act aggressively to protect the people of the Northern District from the gun- and gang-fueled violence that steals too many lives, and too many promising futures, each year. He understands the magnitude of the public safety challenges that grip too many Chicago neighborhoods every day. He has called for creative solutions to gang problems, recognizing – as President Obama and I have – that we can’t arrest our way to safer communities. And he knows that we all must work together to fight back.
Like many of you, this is something I learned from experience – during my own service, in the 1990s, as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. This was at a time when our nation’s capital was a city in crisis – a city that some called the “murder capital” of the United States. And my colleagues and I knew then – just as Zach and his counterparts are proving now – that criminal justice and law enforcement professionals must marshal every resource, recommit themselves to cooperation, and adopt innovative, evidence-based strategies for fighting crime and stemming the tide of gun violence.
Today, with this goal in mind, I’m proud to announce that the Justice Department will take significant steps to increase our support for public safety initiatives here in the Northern District of Illinois – initiatives that U.S. Attorney Fardon is already helping to lead. In the coming year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will send a new Special Agent in Charge and new senior managers to the Field Division right here in Chicago. They will add new agents on the street to work cooperatively with U.S. Attorney Fardon and other federal, state and local partners to advance proven strategies for reducing firearm-related crime. And ATF will concentrate its criminal enforcement and regulatory assets on firearms trafficking throughout the Chicago area – constricting the supply of illegal guns that too often wind up in the hands of gang members and other violent criminals.
The Justice Department also will seek new ways to ensure that resources provided to the Chicago Police Department by our Asset Forfeiture Fund can be better used to keep more officers on the beat. I have directed our Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section to work closely with Superintendent McCarthy and his colleagues in order to realize this goal. And I’ve made clear that it’s a top priority for the Department to continue working, through the Office of Justice Programs, to provide training, technical assistance, and millions of dollars in grant funding to our partners throughout the city. To reduce gun violence through programs like Project Safe Neighborhoods. To harness new research, and share best practices, to target crime-fighting resources to the areas where they’re most needed. To improve the juvenile justice system and reduce recidivism under the Second Chance Act and our new “Smart on Crime” initiative. And to combat the threats that face our young people by partnering with you to advance the goals of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.
As we look to the future, I’m confident that these activities and resources will strengthen the Justice Department’s ability to work with local leaders, and with the dedicated men and women who serve the Northern District of Illinois, to bring about the progress that all of our citizens deserve. The problems that we confront here have been long in the making and will not be solved overnight. We must be realistically impatient and results-demanding. But we must also understand that positive change is not inevitable. It is the product of cooperative endeavor and sustained effort. This is simply not a time for institutional friction.
I can think of no one more qualified, more capable, or more prepared to help lead this necessary, cooperative work – and help secure this very achievable progress – than Zach Fardon.
Anyone who’s had the privilege of working with Zach over the years – in fact, anyone who has followed his career – understands why President Obama chose to appoint him to this important and prestigious office. We’ve seen his devotion and his tenacity. We’ve seen his integrity and his humility. And we know that he will work hard every day not merely to win cases, or to secure convictions – but to protect the nine million people who live, and work, and go to school in this District. To uphold the enduring principles – of fairness and equality – that have always guided the very best who serve the legal profession. And to ensure that – in every case, in every circumstance, and in every community – that justice be done.
Zach, it’s an honor to join your family, friends, and colleagues in congratulating you on this extraordinary occasion. It’s a privilege to count you as a partner, and a strong ally, in the considerable work that lies ahead. I thank you for your service to our nation and your tireless commitment to reducing gun violence. I want you to know that you have, and can always expect, the full support of the Justice Department’s senior leadership – starting with me. And I wish you and your colleagues the very best of luck.