Thank you, Lee [Loftus]. It is a pleasure to be with you and a privilege to join you in welcoming so many colleagues and guests to the first-ever Department of Justice Veterans Appreciation Ceremony. Thank you all for being here.
It is fitting that we’ve gathered today – exactly one week after Veterans Day and one week before Thanksgiving – to honor the 19,000 veterans who serve our nation’s Justice Department. This is an important opportunity to recognize your courage and commitment and, above all, to express our deep and enduring gratitude for the extraordinary contributions that you have made – and for the inspiring example that you continue to provide.
Each one of you is a role model for your colleagues, for your friends and family members, and for your fellow Americans.
You have served the cause of justice across this country and around the world – in areas of great danger and in times of urgent need. And although what you experienced in the Armed Forces is very different from the duties you now fulfill, it would be a mistake – I believe – to completely differentiate your time in the U.S. military from your tenure at the Department of Justice. In both instances, you have defended essential liberties and expanded opportunities. You have strengthened our nation’s most sacred principles. And you have answered the highest calling of citizenship.
While I am encouraged – and proud – to see so many veterans here today, I also realize that you represent just a small fraction of the many veterans who now serve our nation’s Justice Department. I am grateful – and we are all fortunate – to have thousands of former service members included in our ranks.
Veterans are leaders. Veterans are patriots. Veterans are heroes. They are among our nation’s most effective and dedicated public servants. And today’s Justice Department relies on – and benefits from – the unique experience, expertise, and perspective that our veterans provide. Whether you’re an agent, attorney, investigator, or support staffer, the specialized training that you received – and the skills that you developed – in the military now help to advance the Department’s critical mission. And I am grateful, in particular, that many of you are leading the Department’s activities to protect the employment rights, voting rights, and financial security of veterans across the country.
Today – as part of the administration’s efforts to develop and maintain a well-qualified and highly skilled workforce – the Department is working to attract and to retain more veterans. As many of you know, last year, President Obama established the Veterans Employment Initiative – an important step forward in helping men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces find employment opportunities in the federal government. Here at the Department, we are proud to be part of this effort. And we have made this new initiative a priority. In February of this year, we launched the Veterans Employment Office, which is working with veterans from across the country who wish to pursue careers in the Department. Already, this office is helping us to attract talented and dedicated colleagues. And these veterans are bringing their exceptional skills – and patriotic spirit – to the Department’s work.
In addition to this new office, we are also working to renew and to reinvigorate the Department’s commitment to treating veterans well every day of the year – to serving you, as President Obama put it this past Veterans Day, “as well as you have served, and still serve, the United States of America.”
From me and from our nation’s Justice Department, you deserve – and you can expect – nothing less.
And, now, it is a special privilege to introduce our speaker and distinguished guest – a leader who embodies the commitment and contributions that we celebrate today.
Senator Lindsey Graham has served our country in many ways – as a member of Congress, where he works to represent South Carolina’s – and our nation’s – best interests; as a U.S. Air Force Colonel; as a Senior Instructor at the Air Force JAG School; as an active-duty military lawyer; and – to this day – as a member of the Air Force Reserves.
Even before his election to Congress, Senator Graham was involved in advancing the critical work – and key goals – of the Department of Justice. He logged more than six years of active service as an Air Force attorney – at Rhein-Main Air Force Base in Germany and, during the first Gulf War, at McEntire Joint National Guard Base in South Carolina. At McEntire, he prepared service members for deployment by briefing pilots on the law of armed conflict, by preparing legal documents for deploying troops, and by providing legal services for members of the South Carolina Air National Guard and their families. Since then, he has been an independent voice – and a leading advocate – for our nation’s warriors and veterans. And he has worked tirelessly to promote the rule of law and to secure the country that he loves so dearly.
I consider Senator Graham to be a valued partner in our daily efforts to advance the cause of justice. During my tenure as Attorney General, it has been a privilege to work with him. And I look forward to continuing – and to strengthening – our important partnership.
As I am sure you’ll agree, there are few public servants better suited to deliver the keynote address for the Justice Department’s inaugural Veterans Appreciation Ceremony. So, please join me in welcoming Senator Lindsey Graham.