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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Introduces U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez at the Department of Justice’s Hispanic Heritage Month Observance Program


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Denise, for that kind introduction. I appreciate your superb work as Deputy Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Staff.  I am grateful to you and your team for organizing this important ceremony.  I also commend you for your dedication to ensuring that every Department of Justice employee and contractor works in an environment free from discrimination and harassment.

I always welcome the opportunity to attend any event that features the singing of Dorothy Williams. Thank you, Dorothy, for gracing this and so many other Department ceremonies.

Joining you to celebrate the many contributions of Hispanic Americans to our Department and the nation is a great privilege.

The theme for this year’s observance is, “One Endless Voice to Enhance our Traditions.”  It encourages us to reflect on the rich diversity of Hispanic community members, and their contributions to all aspects of our society.

There are more than 57 million Hispanic Americans. They are an indispensable part of our national fabric.  Every aspect of American life is shaped by their presence.  They make distinguished contributions to the fields of art, literature, education, science, sports, health, and public service.  They serve with honor in our Armed Forces, advancing freedom and peace throughout the world.  And they work proudly in the Department of Justice.

As President Donald Trump said last month, “Hispanic Americans embody American values: devotion to faith and family, commitment to hard work, enterprise and community service, and a fierce patriotic pride.”

We honor and appreciate the many contributions and sacrifices from members of this dynamic community.  Today, we recommit ourselves to ensuring opportunities for all Americans. Every group, every person, enriches the quality and character of our great nation.

On the first day of work at our Department, every employee recites an oath of office. Most people are familiar with the first clause of our oath, the requirement to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  But some overlook the final clause: to “well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”

The obligation to the Constitution is generic.  It imposes a duty to pursue the national interest over any private interest.  That applies equally to all government employees.

But the final clause about the office is specific.  Everybody recites the same words, but the meaning varies.  In order to well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office, you need to understand the unique responsibilities of your office.  

What is the mandate of your agency; what is the mission of your component; and how do you personally add value?

You need to know what you stand for.

Everyone in this room, and throughout the Department, knows what we stand for.  We share a commitment to promoting justice and maintaining the rule of law.

That is a great privilege.  It is also an enormous responsibility.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently explained: “No greater good can be done for the overall health and well-being of our Republic, than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law.”

This is our mission at the Justice Department.  And we could not accomplish it so well without the talented men and women of Hispanic descent who work throughout the Department.  Their contributions are invaluable.   The Attorney General and I, and all of our colleagues, rely on them. And we are grateful.

This morning, we are fortunate that Maria Chapa Lopez is here to share some thoughts with us.

Ms. Chapa Lopez is a first-generation American.  Both of her parents emigrated from Mexico.  After receiving her B.A. from the University of Texas, Ms. Chapa Lopez attended South Texas College of Law, where she was Assistant Editor of the Law Review.

Maria then served our nation in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  She also earned an L.L.M. from the Judge Advocate General’s School in Charlottesville, Virginia.

From 2000 until 2016, Ms. Chapa Lopez worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.  She prosecuted transnational drug trafficking organizations, complex domestic narcotics trafficking, large-scale money laundering, and complex opioid cases.

From 2016 to 2018, Ms. Chapa Lopez served as the Department of Justice Deputy Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

She held that job until the Attorney General appointed her as interim U.S. Attorney on January 3. Coincidentally, I visited Maria’s office in Tampa just a few days later for a major human trafficking announcement and a press conference. We did not give her much time to settle in. But she did not need it. This is her life’s work.

President Trump subsequently nominated Maria to serve as the permanent United States Attorney. And one month ago, on September 4, she took the oath of office as the Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. It is one of our largest and most important offices.

In a recent interview, Maria spoke about her heritage and her patriotism. “I love my Mexican roots,” she said, “But I am an American.”

Please join me in welcoming a great American with a voice to enhance our traditions: the Honorable Maria Chapa Lopez.

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Updated October 2, 2018