Remarks as Delivered
What an inspiration to come in on the tail end of that panel. That was really really terrific. So, thank you.
And I am also very mindful that I am appearing here with some of the department’s greats. I’m looking at the program and seeing some familiar names, names that I recognize from my tenure here at the department across many years in different jobs, so it’s really terrific to be here with you today.
It is an honor to join you in celebrating the 65th anniversary of the creation of the Civil Rights Division. Happy birthday, by the way.
I want to thank the organizers of today’s program for your incredibly hard work in putting this all together and gathering such a tremendous group of panelists and to have the occasion to bring so many alums here. Welcome back to the department.
I want to thank also Kristen Clarke for her tremendous, tremendous leadership of the Civil Rights Division.
As you all know all too well, the promise of America is that every person should have equal opportunity and should have equal justice under law.
And the heart of that promise is enshrined in the fundamental rights of our Constitution — notably in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments — as well as in our civil rights and voting rights laws.
But your work, the work of the Civil Rights Division, reminds us that that promise is too often threatened, infringed upon or denied by those fueled by hate.
The Attorney General has spoken eloquently about the roots of the Justice Department’s founding — how in 1870, the department was created to defend the American promise — principally to assure the civil and voting rights of Black Americans in the Reconstruction south.
In those early days, department prosecutors and law enforcement agents successfully disrupted the efforts of groups, like the Ku Klux Klan, to terrorize African Americans exercising their fundamental rights.
Today, the professionals of the Civil Rights Division work tirelessly to fulfill this department’s primary mission – protecting the American people.
And over the past year, the Civil Rights Division has been doing so in a myriad of ways, including the division’s extraordinary work to address hate crimes and bias-related incidents.
No one – no one – should fear violence because of who they are.
As the Attorney General has said, we will use every tool – every tool – to combat hate crimes and bias-motivated extremism.
And to help prevent these crimes, the department, led by the Civil Rights Division, has developed the United Against Hate community outreach program.
The program, led by each U.S. Attorney in their district, improves reporting of hate crimes by teaching community members how to identify, report and, most importantly, prevent acts of hate.
And last year, the Civil Rights Division hosted a virtual conference, bringing together community leaders, advocates and law enforcement officials to focus attention on best practices to fight hate in our communities.
And when hate crimes are committed, the Civil Rights Division has deep expertise in investigating and responding to these horrific incidents in tandem with our state and local partners.
And in just the last two years, 52 people have been convicted or pled guilty to federal hate crimes. Those include the three men who targeted and killed Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia; a man who attacked a synagogue and burned a mosque in California; a man who conspired and targeted nine men in Texas for violent crimes, including kidnapping, carjacking and hate crimes all because of their sexual orientation.
Now, your work, the work of the Civil Rights Division, to protect the American promise is evident in these cases and those over the prior 65 years.
And as we mark 65 years of Civil Rights Division history, I have been reflecting a little bit on the work of one of my predecessors as Deputy Attorney General, Nicholas Katzenbach.
He later, of course, became Attorney General and testified in 1965 about the then-proposed Voting Rights Act.
He spoke then of the ongoing contract of fulfilling the promise of equal protection and the right to vote enshrined in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.
And for 65 years, the women and men at the Civil Rights Division have stood up and said, “We will work to fulfill that promise.”
Today, the professionals of the Civil Rights Division — all of you — are the heart and soul of the department’s enduring efforts to fulfill and protect the American promise.
It is a formidable task to ensure — one that requires constant vigilance, unwavering dedication to mission and extraordinary skill.
And for 65 years the Civil Rights Division have been up to that task.
From enforcing our nation’s laws to protect against housing discrimination to ensuring equal access to places of public accommodation, the Civil Rights Division has been up to that task.
From working to achieve equal opportunity for people with disabilities to ensuring all children in the United States have access to public education, the Civil Rights Division has been up to the task.
From protecting citizens from discrimination in voting to prosecuting hate crimes, the Civil Rights Division has been up to the task.
It has been an impressive 65 years. To the men and the women of the Civil Rights Division, past present and future, you are the stewards of our collective mission to protect civil rights.
I could not be prouder to stand with you.
Thank you for your service.