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Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Retirement Ceremony for John Cruden


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you, Ignacia [Moreno]. It’s a pleasure to join with you – and with so many distinguished guests, including leaders who have served in the judiciary, in the military, and in the highest levels of government service – as we celebrate the extraordinary contributions that have characterized John Cruden’s time at the Justice Department. 

Over the last two decades, he has helped to lead one of the Department’s most active Divisions – and has been essential in making it such a great place to work, and to learn.  And, while we will miss both his expertise and his humor, we wish him the best in his new role as President of the Environmental Law Institute.

I’d like to extend a special welcome to John’s family – especially, his wife, Sharon; his daughters, Kristen [Mason] and Heather [Campbell]; his grandchildren, Ryan, Jonathan, Lauren, and Katelyn; and his loyal assistant, Shanedda Bogan – who has worked with John for so many years that she may as well be a member of his family. 

I’d also like to recognize – and welcome back – the many former Department leaders who are with us today.  It is good to have you – and so many of John’s current colleagues, and long-time supporters, with us this afternoon.

This is a special day.  But, as we gather to honor our good friend – who happens to be the longest-serving career Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the 101-year history of the ENRD – I can’t help but feel that this celebration is bittersweet.  And I know it is for John.

Since the beginning of his career, his passion for the law – and his dedication to serving his country and his fellow citizens – has known no bounds. 

As many of us remember all too vividly, the training of every aspiring lawyer begins the same way: with the LSAT.

Most prospective law students come to this test armed with guidebooks, notes, and study tips.  But, during the Vietnam War, when John Cruden was part of an Army Special Forces team, he took the exam in Saigon – where he came armed, quite literally, with hand grenades.  As soon as he completed the test and put down his number-two pencil, John picked up his rifle.  Then he boarded a helicopter that would carry him back into combat.

From that day forward, his career has been anything but ordinary.

In 1991, more than two decades after he began his military service – and after he received more decorations than I have time to name – John left the Army to accept his first job here at the Department.  He began his tenure as Chief of the Environmental Enforcement Section, where he helped to lead the Department’s work on high-profile cases like Love Canal and Exxon Valdez. 

Only four years later, he became the Division’s highest-ranking career employee, a position he has held ever since.  In this role, he has led multiple large-scale cases, including our civil enforcement effort for the largest oil spill in our nation’s history. 

Over the course of his time here, he has scored major victories for ordinary Americans all across the country – bringing justice to those affected by chromium runoff in Michigan, tainted water supplies right here in Washington, and countless others.

But it’s telling that, if you ask John what single accomplishment he is most proud of, he doesn’t talk about his successes in the courtroom – though there have been many.  He doesn’t talk about the sensitive, high-priority tasks with which he has been entrusted – though he has been indispensible. 

John knows – though he’s too modest to admit it – that his legacy at this Department actually runs much deeper.

He’ll jump at the chance to tell you about the people he’s hired and promoted.  Those he has learned from, and those he has mentored.  The weddings he’s gone to – and the funerals.  The people he’s visited in the hospital, and the staff members – like Shanedda – who have become a part of his family. 

He’ll tell you about his work as a swim coach for the Special Olympics, and the achievements he’s helped others to realize.  He’ll tell you about the people in – and beyond – this room, whose lives he has touched, and who have inspired his work.  And he knows, even if he won’t take credit for it, that – in them – he has left an indelible mark on this Department, and a legacy that will guide its people – and shape its direction – long into the future.

Now, I’ve had the privilege of knowing John for many years – from the time I was a judge on the DC Superior Court, to my days as this city’s U.S. Attorney, and of course as Deputy Attorney General.  But I’ll never forget the welcome that he gave me in 2009, when I returned to the Department as Attorney General.

John was Acting Assistant Attorney General at the time – a position he held with distinction for nearly two years, under two different Presidents.  In fact, it was during his leadership as Acting AAG that this Division was named “the best place to work in the federal government” – a remarkable achievement, given ENRD’s heavy workload at the time.

Shortly after I took the oath of office, John asked if I would come to the Patrick Henry Building, before I addressed any other internal group, to speak with his colleagues.  Of course, I agreed.

When I walked into that conference room, not only had he attracted a standing-room-only-crowd – he had hung a large banner for me, which read, “Welcome Home.”

For me – having just started the last job I’ll ever hold at this Department I love so much – that meant a great deal, especially coming from a dedicated public servant like John Cruden.  Like all of you, I feel fortunate to have benefited from John’s thoughtfulness, his generosity, and his warmth.  I know that every person who has worked with him has seen the same qualities – and the same compassion – that have defined his service, every day, for the last two decades.  And, although we wish him well in his exciting new endeavors, and although we recognize that the Department is stronger because of him – we will miss him dearly.

John – it is my honor to thank you for your leadership, your service, and – most of all – your friendship over the years.  Please know that you have won the admiration of your colleagues, that you have earned the gratitude of your nation – and that you will always – always – have a home here at the Department of Justice.

Please join me in giving Deputy Assistant Attorney General Cruden a round of applause.

Updated August 18, 2015