Thank you, Bill [Baer], for that kind introduction. I am delighted to welcome everyone who has joined us here: hardworking professionals, dedicated leaders and dear friends. I am honored to stand before you – and proud to speak for my colleagues at every level of the Department of Justice – as we recognize the contributions of our fearless leader: Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
I’d like to extend a special welcome to the members of the attorney general’s family who are joining us today – including her husband, Stephen Hargrove, her brother-in-law Leonzo Lynch, sister-in-law Susan Hicks, sister-in-law Nicole Lynch and niece Jasmynne Hicks. You know better than most that the attorney general’s job is not an easy one. Its responsibilities require a great deal of understanding and support from loved ones. And so before we thank Attorney General Lynch for her service, I want to thank you for yours. I want to thank you for letting Attorney General Lynch be a part of our family – the Justice Department family – and for helping her to serve with such distinction and grace.
I first met the attorney general when we were both U.S. attorneys serving on Attorney General Eric Holder’s advisory committee. Even then, I can tell you that the other U.S. attorneys noted her unwavering resolve, her devotion to the law and her unfailing civility. As President Obama said when he nominated her, “Loretta might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug lords and terrorists, and still has the reputation for being a charming “people person.”” That reputation is well-deserved. And those same characteristics defined her tenure as attorney general.
Of course, those characteristics were forged through a remarkable career – serving as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York before rising to serve as U.S. attorney for that office not once, but twice. And speaking as another longtime AUSA and U.S. attorney, I can tell you that this experience means something. Not only does it reveal the attorney general’s character – after all, she spent the majority of her career fighting for the ideals of fairness, equality and justice that lie at the heart of this great institution. But it also means that she knows what it is like to be in the field. She knows what it’s like to do the hard work that the rest of us here on this stage often get credit for. She knows what it’s like to spend countless hours away from your family in the middle of an investigation or while you prepare for trial; to have to grapple with complex statutes and unwind red tape; to wait for an answer from “Main Justice” – all the things that drive our lawyers and agents crazy. She knows exactly how hard our people work, and she understands the devotion that they have to the American people, to this institution and to the law. And even in the midst of her impossibly busy schedule, she has always taken the time to thank the line agents, trial attorneys, AUSAs and support staff who do the work and make the cases that make justice real for the American people.
Being pulled in so many directions would fluster most people, but Attorney General Lynch is nothing if not unflappable. We’ve seen that almost daily: congress doesn’t rattle her; reporters don’t faze her; meetings at the White House are handled with aplomb; she’s not even thrown by international soccer fans flying her image over their stadiums. I have observed time and again that difficult situations have left her undaunted and in control. And this cool and collected composure has helped this institution and this country remain steady in tumultuous times.
As many of you will remember, the attorney general was sworn in on the day of Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore. Tensions were high, and the city was racked with mistrust and fear. Unrest had already erupted and threatened to do so again. But with her characteristic composure, the AG headed straight to Baltimore, where she spoke with community leaders; where she met with law enforcement; and where she unearthed what she later described as “a common spirit of resilience and a shared desire for peace and unity.” In her first week on the job, she helped calm the waters and began the work of developing serious reforms to that police department’s policies and culture, efforts that are bearing fruit as we speak. Over the course of almost two years, the attorney general traveled to 15 cities with the essential goal of strengthening trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve. And in city after city – in communities around the nation – she helped to demonstrate that we have within ourselves the capacity to heal, to grow and to flourish together.
That work has not been easy, but Attorney General Lynch has been driven by a commitment to justice that is evident not only from the many years she spent in the trenches, trying cases and leading the U.S. Attorney’s office, but also from her time on the national stage. She has ensured that this department remains a source of strength and support for the most vulnerable among us. She has spoken out for victims of human trafficking and survivors of sexual assault. She has stood up for people who have been hammered with unjust fines and fees. And she has marched alongside individuals – such as our fellow citizens who are transgender – who continue to fight for the civil rights that they have been promised but too rarely enjoy. For millions of our friends and neighbors and fellow Americans, the message was clear; she saw you. She stood with you. And she was determined to protect and serve you
Loretta has made a difference in the lives of Americans who are safer and more secure because of her steadfast leadership. She has made a difference for individuals who are more free to be themselves because of her determination to do the right thing – even when the right thing wasn’t simple or easy. She has made a difference in her work to create the more perfect union – and the more just society – that has always been this department’s sacred mission. And she has made a difference to us – all of us here today who have been privileged to join her in that vital effort and to help bend the arc of the moral universe a little bit further towards justice.
Loretta, I want to thank you for your leadership and your friendship. It has been an honor to work with you in the service of an institution we both love so much. And it has been a privilege and a pleasure to help lead this department with my friend.
On behalf of everyone at the department, thank you.
At this time, it is my pleasure to now introduce AAG Lee Lofthus.