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Press Release

Remarks by U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain at the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Annual Seminar

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain was honored to speak on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Annual Seminar in New York City as part of the annual gathering of the Pennsylvania Society. U.S. Attorney McSwain’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.


When David Taylor graciously asked me to speak here today, I said two things: first, I’m honored, and second, how much time do I have? He said to me: five minutes. I said, OK, well, what would you like me to cover? He said – how about what you believe and what your office stands for.  And I thought – wow, five minutes? Really? My wife says I can’t clear my throat in five minutes and I’m supposed to cover all of that?

Well, here’s my best shot, in five minutes or less. First of all, on the most practical of levels, I believe that my position and my office exist to keep the community safe. But anybody who leads a prosecutor’s office – especially one in a major urban area – would say that, right? I do believe, of course, in keeping the community safe . . . but I also believe in something bigger than that.

I believe in democracy. I believe in respecting the will of the people. In this country, the law is the will of the people. It is my job to enforce the law and to protect the rule of law. By doing so, I show my respect for the will of the people and I promote our nation’s representative democracy. Because the rule of law is the backbone of this incredible experiment in self-government that we call America.

I believe that if, for some reason, you don’t like some aspect of the law, every one of us is empowered to work to change it. That’s the beauty of representative democracy – it is the greatest force for political equality our world has ever seen. If you’re an elected official and you don’t like the law, then introduce a bill. If you’re a citizen and you don’t like the law, then raise your voice to your legislators. And at a bare minimum, make sure you vote. But don’t ask me to violate my oath by not enforcing the law. Don’t ask me to do an end-run around the democratic process. Because I’m not here to do that. I’m here to help protect democracy. I’m here to promote the will of the people, which is expressed through our laws.

So, for example, if you want to set up a drug house (or a euphemistically titled “safe” injection site) in Kensington for people to shoot up heroin, or if you want to declare your city or municipality a “sanctuary” from the enforcement of immigration law, or if you want to forcibly silence the free speech of those who disagree with you – I don’t doubt your good intentions, but you are disrespecting democracy because what you propose is illegal. And I will use every tool at my disposal and every power that I have to hold you accountable.

I believe that respect for the rule of law can be and should be a powerful unifying force in our country. There is much more that unites us as Americans than divides us. We all believe in democracy, and we all believe in respecting the will of the people. We all love our country. We can and should come together as Americans by remembering that. By remembering that we live in the greatest and the freest country in the history of the world. A country that is founded on respect for our democratically enacted laws. 

So that’s what I believe. And that’s what my office stands for. God Bless all of you, and God Bless the United States of America. Thank you.

Updated December 3, 2018