Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Good afternoon – and thank you all for being here.
Although this is an occasion I’ve been dreading for quite some time, I must say it’s a privilege to join so many friends, colleagues, and distinguished guests in publicly thanking Associate Attorney General Tony West for his dedicated service to this Department, and to our nation, over the last five years; in celebrating the many invaluable contributions that Tony has made during that time; and in wishing him well as he opens an exciting new chapter in his extraordinary career.
I’d like to extend a special welcome to Tony’s wonderful wife, Maya Harris, and their remarkable daughter, Meena – who, as an associate at my old firm, Covington and Burling, is already following in the footsteps of her highly-accomplished parents. It’s great to have you with us today.
I understand the rigorous toll that jobs like Tony’s can exact – and the sacrifices that his high-profile roles have demanded – from the entire family. I know the many significant achievements that have characterized his tenure would simply not have been possible without your patience, your love, and your constant support.
I also know that it hasn’t always been easy. But I want to thank each of you for your service during Tony’s time in the Civil Division and the Associate’s Office. His hard work, his passion – and his steadfast commitment to our shared mission – have meant a great deal to this Department, to the American people, to the President of the United States, and to me. And your love and support have meant the world to him.
Now, we’ve still got Tony for a few more days – and we intend to make the most of that time. But I’m glad we could take this opportunity, while he’s still officially in office, to give him the sendoff that he richly deserves.
When Tony returned to the Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, in 2009, I was immediately struck not only by his skill and intelligence as a lawyer, his inclusive manner as a leader, and his capacity to motivate his team – but also by the empathy, the excellent judgment, and the seemingly boundless energy that he brought to every challenge that was laid before him.
Over the past five years, these characteristics have been clearly evident in the sense of direction he has provided, and the work he has inspired, in his colleagues and counterparts – but perhaps never more so than during the discussions leading up to the Administration’s decision not to defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.
I’m sure neither of us will ever forget those meetings, the careful analysis and reflection that went into that decision – or the historic steps forward we have seen since then, thanks to the courage of citizens like Edith Windsor. And I will always be grateful for the sound advice and wise counsel that Tony provided at every step along the way – and that he has brought to countless other pressing issues, both before and since.
Whether shaping national policies, standing up for consumers – or helping to lead the national fight for equal rights, equal dignity, and equal justice – the impact of Tony’s work over the years has been clear. And it has been powerful.
Through his relentless efforts to combat financial fraud and hold corporations accountable, Tony has helped win record civil settlements totaling tens of billions of dollars – including last month’s historic $16.6 billion agreement with Bank of America.
He has provided steady leadership on a range of complex matters and high-stakes negotiations. And he has brought relief to hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost a great deal during the financial crisis – helping them to stay afloat and, in some cases, even to stay in their homes.
Through his unwavering focus on the high rates of crime and violence plaguing Indian Country – particularly through his leadership of the Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence and his work on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act – Tony’s efforts have brought help and hope to areas of the country that have been too long overlooked and too often left behind.
He has consistently served as an advocate for the rights of Indian and Alaska Native peoples. And thanks in part to his tireless work, VAWA now provides tools to ensure that everyone who victimizes women on tribal lands can be held accountable – no matter whether the perpetrator is Indian or non-Indian.
That’s a historic achievement. And I could go on and on. But this ceremony just isn’t long enough for me to list every single one of his accomplishments.
So, instead, I’ll note that – on these critical issues and many, many others, including some of the most complex legal questions we’ve faced during my tenure – Tony has provided remarkable insight. He has shown extraordinary courage. And he has demonstrated understanding, and wisdom, far beyond his years.
Just as importantly, he has consistently approached his considerable responsibilities with grace, with unfailing good humor – and with steadfast devotion to the rule of law, the cause of justice, and the interests of those whom the law protects and empowers.
At every level, Tony West has come to exemplify what it means to be a public servant in the truest sense. To many who are at risk and in need, he has become known as a champion. To those who have broken the law and victimized others, he has been a fierce and determined guardian of the public trust. And to me, he has been a trusted advisor, a dedicated colleague, and a dear friend.
Through his leadership of the Civil Division and his service as Associate Attorney General, he has left an indelible mark on this great institution, and on our nation – touching and improving countless lives from coast to coast.
And that’s why, although I am deeply proud to join everyone here in wishing Tony well as he takes a well-deserved break from the rigors of public service, I want him to know that all of us will miss him a great deal. And we hope – and I suspect – that he’ll be back, in one capacity or another, before too terribly long.
Tony, I want to thank you, once again, for all that you’ve done – and for the sacrifices that you and your family have made during your time at the Department.
As you look toward the future, I know that you’re well-prepared for any challenge you decide to take on. I am confident that your contributions will continue to inspire us, and to guide our work, for a long time to come.
You will always be a treasured member of the Justice Department family. And I know I speak for all of your friends and colleagues in this building – and throughout the Administration – when I wish you the very best of luck.
Now it’s my privilege to introduce the Associate Attorney General – Tony West.