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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Meaning of America: Excerpts from U.S. Attorney McSwain’s Investiture Remarks

PHILADELPHIA – On June 29, 2018, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain took the Oath of Office as the 39th United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in a public swearing-in ceremony at the United States Courthouse. The following is an excerpt of the remarks he delivered, published today in observance of the Independence Day national holiday.

May it please the Court, Chief Judge Stengel, family, friends, honored guests, thank you very much for sharing this day with me and for making it so special.

When I was going through the process of trying to become U.S. Attorney, sometimes casual acquaintances would ask me, with a certain puzzlement in their voice:  why would you want to do that?  You already have a really good job – why would you want all that work and scrutiny, on a government salary?  What’s that going to do for you?  I used to get the same type of question when I joined the Marines soon after I graduated from college.  Why do you want to do that?  You can do anything – why the Marine Corps?

My initial internal reaction to these types of questions would always be: Are you kidding me?  Do I really have to explain that to you?  Don’t you get it?

I can feel it right here in my heart.  That’s why I joined the Marines.  That’s why I became an Assistant U.S. Attorney.  That’s why I wanted to be U.S. Attorney.

And when I walked into my new office for the first time on April 6, 2018, I knew I was in the right place.  I sat down at my desk and I looked to my right, and I took in the sweeping view of Independence National Park, and in particular, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  That was a powerful moment – and I invite all of you here today, when you have the time, to come visit me in my office and experience that view for yourselves.  It is remarkable.  This country was founded literally steps from where I’m blessed to work every day.

But I should be able to do more than just feel why I wanted to serve as U.S. Attorney.  I should be able to explain it – to anybody who asks, and particularly, to my family. 

So here goes:  I love this country.  I love what she stands for.  The history of the world is largely a history of tribal warfare, monarchy, grinding poverty and misery.  And then . . . there’s America.  America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world.  It is a country founded on ideas.  And not just any ideas, but the right ideas – ideas that have unlocked human potential and enabled human flourishing.  Self-government, freedom, liberty, individual rights, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, free markets, capitalism, economic opportunity, and equality under the law. 

It is our legal system that protects these ideas and makes them more than just words on a piece of paper.  It is our legal system that is the foundation and protector of everything that we hold dear in this country.  I want to do my part to serve that system and thereby honor the ideals that make America what she is.  So how do I do that?  What is “my part”?

My part is to enforce the law – not to make the law (that is the job of the legislative branch) and not to interpret the law (that is the province of the judiciary), but to enforce the law.  And to do so fairly and consistently and in a nonpartisan manner.  My part is to respect and promote the rule of law, and in the process, to keep our community safe.           

There is no shortage of opportunities to do this.  The challenges are everywhere:  international terrorism, domestic terrorism, cybercrime, violent crime, the opioid epidemic, violent drug organizations, gangs, organized crime, child exploitation, human trafficking, political corruption, securities fraud, financial fraud, fraud against the government, tax fraud, protecting the public fisc, protecting civil rights – and the list goes on and on.  So the question for me, really, is this:  How much energy can I summon to attack these problems?  How much commitment do I have?  How dedicated can I be?  How much am I willing to sacrifice?

My chance to make a meaningful impact on these problems isn’t going to last forever.  I’m very aware of that.  I have a limited amount of time in this position.  When I sit at that desk for the last time and look over Independence National Park, and Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell, and I think about the meaning of America – I don’t want to have any regrets.  I don’t want to think to myself:  I could have done more, or I should have done more.

It is the work of my life to earn the respect of the people in this room.  I will do everything in my power to be worthy of that respect.  I promise that I will not let you down.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Updated December 20, 2018