Thank you, Jim [Cole]. It is an honor to stand with you this afternoon, and to join you in welcoming so many colleagues, distinguished guests, proud family members, and friends.
Today, as Lisa Monaco and Virginia Seitz are officially sworn into their leadership roles, we not only celebrate the latest achievements in two remarkable careers; we also mark an exciting, and historic, new chapter in the history of our nation’s Department of Justice.
On this special day, I’m especially pleased that we’re joined by two of my former colleagues and good friends – Justice [Elena] Kagan and Judge [Harry] Edwards – as well as Lisa’s parents, Anthony and Mary Lou Monaco, and her siblings, aunts and uncles, and their families; along with Virginia’s husband Roy McLeese – another longtime member of the DOJ family – and their children, Miranda and Roy.
Thank you all for being here – and for the support that you have provided to two of the most talented, accomplished lawyers in the nation as they take on two of the most vital – and challenging – legal roles in all of government.
Already, they are fulfilling these new roles with extraordinary skill – and demonstrating the rare qualities that inspired them to pursue careers in public service, and have propelled them to senior leadership positions. Both Lisa and Virginia have earned the respect of their colleagues, the trust of their President, and the full confidence – and deep gratitude – of this Attorney General.
Our new Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Lisa Monaco, first came to the Department during law school, as an intern in the Office of Legislative Affairs. And I have had the pleasure of knowing her since 1998, when she served as Counsel to Attorney General [Janet] Reno. Ever since then, I have relied on her advice, sound judgment, and expertise – and, whenever possible, taken credit for her excellent ideas.
As many of you know, over the past decade, Lisa has been at the forefront of our nation’s efforts to prevent and combat the most serious threats ever faced, and to put the most dangerous criminals behind bars. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, she led one of the most significant white-collar prosecutions in American history, receiving the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service – the Department’s highest award for employee performance. As Chief of Staff of the FBI, she worked closely with Director Mueller to strengthen the Bureau and reshape it for the 21st century.
Of course, since returning to Main Justice in 2009 as an Associate Deputy Attorney General, Lisa has been an invaluable partner and an indispensible leader in advancing the Department’s most important mission: protecting the safety of the American people. Each morning, I begin my day with her – as we are briefed on the most recent and urgent threats against the United States. And throughout my tenure as Attorney General, I have been consistently impressed by her intelligence, her integrity, her ability to perform under pressure, and her unwavering commitment to public service.
This summer – at President Obama’s direction, and with the consent of the United States Senate – Lisa became not only Assistant Attorney General for National Security, but also the first woman ever to lead the Justice Department’s national security prosecutions. She assumed this position at a critical moment in our nation’s law enforcement history – in which we are engaged in a new kind of fight against a sophisticated, and constantly evolving, set of enemies. But we can all be encouraged by Lisa’s exceptional performance as she’s taken on these considerable duties.
Under her leadership, the National Security Division continues to take aggressive steps to protect the American people from terrorists and other threats. She has helped to build support, trust, and intelligence-gathering capabilities within – and beyond – our nation’s law enforcement community. And she has helped drive this Department’s pursuit of effective counterterrorism policies, which have allowed us to become not only tougher, but smarter, in combating crime and terror – all while safeguarding the privacy and the sacred rights of the citizens we are privileged to serve.
This afternoon, I am honored to call Lisa not only my colleague, but my friend – and I am thrilled to formally congratulate her on taking office as Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
But it’s impossible to talk about integrity and intelligence in today’s Justice Department without mentioning Virginia Seitz, our new Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel. Virginia is the first woman to fill this important AAG post – and her extensive experience, unsurpassed judgment, and brilliant legal mind place her among the most effective, and admired, attorneys in the country.
Now, as most people who know Virginia will tell you, you can try to ask her about her incredible career. You can ask her about her time as a Rhodes Scholar – about clerking for Judge Edwards on the D.C. Circuit, or on the Supreme Court for Justice Brennan; about making partner at Sidley Austin while working part-time; about representing Major League Baseball’s Player’s Union, or arguing before the Supreme Court.
Yes, you can try. But before you do, those who know her best would have two words of advice for you: “Don’t bother.”
Virginia doesn’t like to talk about herself – or her many achievements. In fact, the only times she’ll come close to bragging is when she talks about how wonderful her children are, what a gifted appellate attorney her husband is, or how much she admired her father – a highly regarded Federal appeals court judge in Delaware who, as a young state judge, helped to refute the separate-but-equal doctrine in public education.
But, despite her reluctance to take credit or accept praise, people have been talking about Virginia throughout her career.
Whether in private practice or while serving in the public sector, she has proven to be a tireless advocate and a renowned legal analyst. In recent years, she has lent her remarkable talents to many of the most pressing legal questions this country has faced. And, already, these skills have proven absolutely crucial for this Department, this Administration, and the American people in the work she has led in the Office of Legal Counsel.
From advising the President on constitutional questions, to reviewing pending legislation, Virginia – as much as anyone in our nation – will help to ensure that the rule of law is upheld, and that it is administered in a fair and impartial manner. Based on the career she has built so far, it is clear that she will continue to do so with intelligence and humility, driven by sound and incisive legal reasoning, and guided by the high ideals that have always defined our justice system – and distinguished her service.
Virginia, it is a pleasure to formally welcome you into your new role as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel; and to thank you for your leadership, as well as your friendship.
As our nation continues to face new obstacles, challenges, and opportunities, I am confident that – with the help of outstanding public servants like Lisa and Virginia – we will strengthen the record of progress that’s been established over the last two years, and build on the legacy of success that – for more than two centuries – has distinguished the work of our nation’s Department of Justice.
Thank you all for your contributions to this work. And, to Assistant Attorney General Monaco and Assistant Attorney General Seitz, congratulations.