Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Rod, for that introduction, and for all the good work that you do here at the Department.
I also want to give a special thanks to Deputy Assistant Attorney General Santangelo and her team in the Justice Management Division for putting together today’s event.
This is my first Awards Ceremony as your Attorney General. And, as I stand before you today, I can’t help but think back to my first days at the Department. I don’t mean earlier this year—I mean as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and then a U.S. Attorney in Mobile, Alabama.
There is nothing that I am more proud of than my 14 years as a federal prosecutor.
We were just a small office, but we felt that we did a lot of good. We took on corruption; we broke up national and international fraud schemes, and we took tons of drugs off our streets. Our dedicated team put in countless hours to accomplish these things and I know that many of you are having that same kind of impact and I thank you for that.
As prosecutors, investigators and support personnel, you have the honor of representing your country.
I will never forget the feeling of going before a judge and saying, “the United States is ready.” I will never get over that feeling of knowing that I represented the greatest country in the history of the world. I’m sure that many you feel the same way.
As a U.S. Attorney I had the incredible honor of leading a small bank of Department employees who day after day, year after year, consistently exceeded expectations. And you continue that standard today.
We are the top law enforcement agency in the country—and the most effective in the world, frankly. We are the top litigator on behalf of the American people. We have the most fundamental and the most sacred task of government: to secure the equal rights of the citizens of this country—to protect their security and their property. Every other initiative of government depends upon us doing our jobs.
I hope that you will keep this in mind as you come to work each day. No matter what your role is at the Department, and no matter what your task, it’s part of this larger goal of protecting the rights of the American people.
Since most of you are here to receive an award for excellence, I’m sure that you know this well.
Service in the Department of Justice is more than a normal job; it’s a calling to the highest standards of professionalism. It provides considerable freedom. It demands responsible decision-making, good judgment, and integrity, and requires a very strong work ethic.
To lead a Department like this goes beyond anything I ever would have had thought possible. If you had told me, when I was starting out as a prosecutor, that I would be here, I wouldn’t have believed you.
But what I’m proud of is not a title. What I’m proud of is this Department—the 115,000 people who work together to pursue our goals. What I’m proud of is you.
This year, the Department has accomplished a lot for the American people. In July, we announced the largest health care fraud takedown in American history. We charged more than 400 defendants with approximately $1.3 billion in fraud, primarily committed against the taxpayer by exploiting government health care programs designed for those in need.
Just a week later, we seized AlphaBay, the largest dark net marketplace on the internet—a site linked to drug overdoses that have killed Americans as young as 13.
In March, I ordered the Department to prioritize prosecutions of firearms offenses. Over the next three months, the number of defendants charged with firearms offenses increased 23 percent compared to last year. If we keep this up, we are on pace to prosecute the most firearms offenses in 12 years. That will save lives.
And of course I’m especially proud of the outstanding achievements we are celebrating today by more than 200 Department of Justice employees and 19 others from outside the Department. I’m honored to be with these exemplary public servants.
Two-hundred recipients may seem like a lot, but out of 115,000 that means we are recognizing truly outstanding patriots.
Every day, thousands of our DOJ professionals go above and beyond our expectations.
The inspiration of doing justice calls forth heroic endeavors. We are recognizing some of those heroic endeavors today.
These awards that we have chosen to give are our attempt to not just recognize these recipients but their excellence symbolizes the excellence of the thousands we are unable to recognize today.
Of course, we must also remember some who couldn’t be with us because they gave the last full measure of devotion.
That includes Deputy Commander Patrick Carothers of the Marshals Service. We are thinking about him today.
After more than 25 years in law enforcement, Pat could have gotten a desk job or retired. But that just wasn’t who he was. And so, when it was time to serve a warrant for a fugitive wanted for attempting to kill police, Pat was the first one through the door.
He lost his life that day, leaving behind his wife of 30 years, Terry, who is with us this afternoon. Together they had five children, including three sons who are now serving this country in the Armed Forces.
Patriotism, duty, and courage are clearly in their blood.
We are going to remember Patrick Carothers’ story for a long time. And he is going to inspire us to live up to his example of selflessness and bravery.
That’s one reason why we’re here this afternoon: to hold up examples like his. By recognizing excellence, we promote excellence.
I meet outstanding DOJ employees every day, but I don’t often get to see your families. And so I want to take a moment right now to thank all of the families who are here. Thank you for sharing these remarkable people with us; I know they’ve probably been working some late nights. You’re making a sacrifice for this country, too. I want you to know that this Department and this country recognizes you and appreciates you, too.
And so, to all of you: award winners, family members, and staff, thank you for the exemplary service that we are celebrating today. May God’s blessing be on all of us and the America we serve.