Thank you, Richard for those kind words, and for the invitation to take part, once again, in the Department’s annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. I also want to thank you and your colleagues from the Justice Management Division’s Equal Employment Opportunity Staff – along with EEO Offices from every component, and the DOJ Association of Hispanic Employees for Advancement and Development – for all that you’ve done to bring us together for this year’s commemoration.
It’s a privilege to welcome so many friends, colleagues, and key Justice Department leaders to this morning’s important program. And it’s a pleasure to join each of you in highlighting – and paying tribute to – the extraordinary contributions that so many Hispanic Americans have made in guiding our nation’s progress – and strengthening this Department’s essential work.
Each year – from mid-September to mid-October – we come together to learn about the Hispanic and Latino communities; to celebrate the generations of Hispanic Americans who have helped to shape our past – and who will be essential in charting our future course; and to call attention to the concerns, and the persistent challenges, that too many of our fellow citizens continue to face.
By shining a light on the achievements that have defined our history – and the obstacles that remain before us – this annual observance helps to enhance our focus on the need to foster diversity and inclusion at every level of the Department. It reminds us of the responsibilities we all must fulfill in making good on our commitment to the cause of equal opportunity – and equal justice – for everyone in this country. And it drives us to rededicate ourselves to the unfinished work of all those – throughout history – who have struggled, sacrificed, and even died to secure the freedom, and the sacred rights, of every individual – regardless of personal background.
Especially this morning – as we reflect on the theme for this year’s program, “Diversity United, Building America’s Future Today!” – we can be encouraged by how far our nation has traveled on the road to ensuring opportunity and justice for all of its citizens. As a Department, we can take great pride in all that’s been achieved – not only in enforcing our critical civil rights laws, but helping to build a more inclusive work environment for every DOJ employee. But we also must recognize that, despite the remarkable progress that so many of you have helped to bring about – even today, in 2012, this work remains as important – and as urgent – as ever before.
Fortunately – thanks to leaders in and far beyond this room – we are making meaningful, measurable strides forward. Over the last three years, we have restored the Department's Civil Rights Division to its rightful place as our country’s preeminent civil rights enforcement agency. During the same period, we filed more criminal civil rights cases than ever before – including record numbers of police misconduct, hate crimes, and human trafficking cases. Across the country, we’ve continued to engage federal, state, local, and tribal partners to combat bias, intimidation, and discrimination – and to investigate and prosecute violations of federal law wherever and whenever they occur – from our financial markets, to our law enforcement and immigration procedures, to our voting booths.
We’ve also taken a series of groundbreaking steps to strengthen the Department’s internal efforts to serve all Americans by recruiting and retaining a workforce comprised of qualified individuals who reflect our nation’s rich diversity. Even in the face of unprecedented budgetary pressures, we’ve made significant progress in fostering a positive work environment that affords every member of the DOJ family the ability to develop, to grow, and to thrive both personally and professionally. Today – together – through our Diversity Management Plan, and a host of other educational and training opportunities – we stand poised to improve our performance and productivity among the Department’s career professionals as well as our senior leadership. And we’ve shown repeatedly that diversity is a source of strength.
Of course, despite these achievements, and the fact that recent years have seen a record number of Latinos serving in senior leadership positions across our government – including, finally, on the United States Supreme Court – there’s no denying that Hispanic Americans continue to face obstacles to employment opportunities, economic empowerment, and equal justice. And there’s no question that we have much left to do in building upon the momentum that’s been established.
But if this Department’s senior leaders, managers, and employees continue to work together – through DOJ-AHEAD, alongside other organizations, and with a range of partners across the Hispanic community and far beyond the Department – I believe there’s no limit to what we’ll be able to accomplish. And I am certain that we can continue to move forward in our efforts to ensure equal rights, equal access, and equal opportunity for every American.
In this critical work, I am privileged to count each of you as a partner. I am proud to join you once again in commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month. Although I regret that I’ll be unable to stay for today’s presentation, I’m eager to hear about what is sure to be an informative discussion. And I look forward to all that we can – and must – achieve together in the months and years to come.