Good afternoon – and thank you all for being here. This is a bittersweet day – for this department, for me, and, I know, for everyone in this Great Hall. But it is a pleasure to share this occasion with so many good friends, valued colleagues and proud family members. And it’s a great privilege to join each of our distinguished guest speakers in welcoming you all to the Justice Department this afternoon – as we thank Jim Cole for his exemplary service to our nation, not only over the last four years, but throughout his career; as we celebrate the many achievements that have defined his leadership of this department as Deputy Attorney General; and as we wish him well as he marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in his life.
I want to extend a special welcome to Jim’s wonderful wife, Susan; their son, Jackson; their daughter, Amanda; and every member of Jim’s extended family who’s here with us today.
As a former Deputy Attorney General myself, I understand in a personal way the toll that this highly-demanding – and far from glamorous – job can take. I also know that having a family member serving in such a high-profile and high-pressure position has required great sacrifices from many of Jim’s friends and loved ones. So I want to take a moment to thank each of you for your service, for your patience, and for your constant love and support over the last four years – which I know have meant the world to Jim, and which have made possible the record of achievement that will define his legacy as a senior leader in the Obama Administration.
What a legacy it is. Over the past four years, Jim Cole has been my indispensable partner in leading the U.S. Department of Justice – and extending the promise of equality under the law for everyone in this country.
His persistence, his tenacity, and his relentless drive for results – on behalf of the American people he serves so faithfully – have marked him as an extremely effective Deputy Attorney General. And his love of, and loyalty to, this great institution – and the extraordinary men and women who serve it – have earned him a reputation as a skilled and thoughtful manager; as a good steward of the principles that have guided this department since its earliest days; and as a champion of the cause of justice – in every case and circumstance.
As anyone who has worked closely with Jim over the years can tell you, many of these qualities have been evident since the moment he first reported for work at the Justice Department – as a member of the newly-created Public Integrity Section.
That, of course, is where Jim and I first met – more years ago than either of us would like to admit. I quickly came to admire Jim’s work ethic, his judgment, his passion for public service and his intelligence and skill as an attorney.
Even before he was promoted to Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Section, I saw – as did many of our colleagues – that Jim had a tremendous amount to offer to this department, and that he was destined for big things. I'm not sure, however, that anyone could have predicted then that the two of us would someday lead the Justice Department. But I knew, when he left the federal workforce and launched a distinguished career in private practice – that his service to our nation was not yet over.
Although neither of us would have dared to imagine it at the time, I was deeply gratified that our respective paths brought us back together in 2010. And I have been both honored and humbled to lead this department alongside him ever since.
During times of great challenge and unprecedented resource constraints – through a hiring freeze and even a government shutdown – President Obama and I have relied upon Jim to ensure that the Justice Department operates as effectively and efficiently as possible.
His leadership and ingenuity have been critical in attaining historic results on behalf of the American people. And, as one of the longest-serving Deputy Attorneys General in history, his management of the day-to-day operations of this department has left a profound and enduring impact.
On a policy level, his input, advice and strong leadership played a key role in the administration’s decision not to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act – and he has been a clear and consistent advocate for LGBT rights throughout the country.
As we considered ways to improve America’s criminal justice system, Jim became a champion – and a key architect – of the Smart on Crime initiative, helping to guide and implement it from the ground up. His work has been particularly important in driving new reentry policies and launching our new executive clemency initiative.
And from the historic resolution in the Deepwater Horizon case – which he helped make possible – to our aggressive and ongoing efforts to combat financial fraud and hold accountable those individuals and institutions who have undermined our economy, his efforts have greatly benefited the American people – touching and improving countless lives from coast to coast.
On questions large and small, throughout his tenure as DAG, Jim’s guidance and wise counsel have made him an irreplaceable advisor, a proven and trusted leader, and a steadfast and valued friend.
Jim, I have been proud to know you, to work with you, and to depend upon you for close to four decades. I am honored to join everyone here in thanking you for your tireless work and faithful service over the years. And although you will be dearly missed by dedicated public servants at every level of the Justice Department – and although I will miss working with you a great deal – I want to join our valued colleagues in wishing you all the best as you move on to bigger and better things.
You will always be a treasured member of the Justice Department family. And I look forward to all that you’ll undoubtedly contribute and achieve in the months and years to come.
At this time, in recognition of your achievements and your many contributions over the years, it is my great privilege to present you with the highest award I can bestow on a Justice Department employee – the Edmund J. Randolph Award. Congratulations, my friend – and good luck.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming to the podium – our Deputy Attorney General, and my great friend, Jim Cole.