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Public Statements

Swearing In Ceremony of Attorney General Eric Holder

Location: Washington, DC



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VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: (Applause.) Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. What a distinguished crowd. I think I look at -- every face is recognizable. Welcome back to the Justice Department. (Laughs, laughter, applause.) Senator Warner is here as well.

Thank you all for being here today. As we gather here today, it's worth remembering the mission statement of the -- that guides this great department, one that Senator and Secretary Cohen as a young congressman remembers when he started off at a very unusual time here in American history in 1972. And it goes like this, it says -- the mission statement of this great department reads as follows: to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety and threats -- against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

There's no mention in that mission statement of politics. There's no mention in that mission statement of ideology. And that's how it should be, because there is no place for politics or ideology in this building.

With the appointment of Eric Holder as attorney general, we're going to be returning to a standard that has governed this great department at its greatest moments, in my view -- no politics, no ideology, only a clear and honest assessment of the facts and the law.

The Department of Justice holds a special place in our democracy. It's here that individual liberty and security is defended and protected. Americans need a great Department of Justice. And the thousands of dedicated professionals in this department who have been here through thick and thin, let me say to them all that America needs you as well, and needs you badly. And you need a leader -- you need a leader that can meet the challenge of restoring this department to the place of honor and respect it deserves.

Eric Holder -- Eric Holder has served a prosecutor, as a judge, and as deputy attorney general. He knows this department, and he knows that it thrives on the commitment and inspiration of the people who serves here.

His words at his confirmation hearing should be reassuring to all those who serve in this department, as well as to all Americans. Let me quote him. He said, "The Department of Justice will serve justice, not the fleeting interest of any political party." End of quote. These words make clear that this attorney general understands the most important truth about this office. Not only is the attorney general the president's lawyer, but he is the people's lawyer. He's the people's lawyer. And that is as it should be as well.

Mr. Attorney General, would you please step forward and give me the honor of administering the oath.

(Mr. Holder was sworn in as attorney general.)

(Cheers, applause.)

ATTY GEN. HOLDER: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.

Thank you.

I want to begin by thanking Vice President Biden, a good friend and a long-time supporter of the Department of Justice.

I also want to thank Mark Filip, the acting attorney general, deputy attorney general, who has done a great job in this past year or so helping to restore the credibility and the shape of the Department of Justice. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

I want to thank those of you here who helped so much in the confirmation process, especially the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a good friend, Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont. (Applause.)

I look forward to working with those other leaders of the House and the Senate who are here today. And I want to express my appreciation to my family, especially to my wife and to my three children, for the love that they have shared these past few weeks and always.

I also want to remember the man who was the guiding force in my life and who I know is here with me today.

We know today not just the journey of one fortunate person, but also the distance traveled by this nation and by a people. Though much ground still needs to be covered, the events of the last year signify that a new day for this nation is potentially at hand. Nowhere but in this great country could a person like me or the president hope to achieve the positions we are now so fortunate to hold.

The distance from a very small house in Queens, New York, to the fifth floor of the Department of Justice is not as long as many may think. Given the advantages of the best a public school education can afford, having loving parents, and the opportunity to enroll in two of the nations premier institutions of higher learning -- and with a lot of luck -- (laughter) -- the trip from East Elmhurst to DOJ is not all that improbable.

And that is the wonder of America.

As I return to the institution that formed me as a lawyer, I am determined to ensure that there shall be a new day for the dedicated career professionals I am once again so honored to call my colleagues. There shall be no place for political favoritism, no reason to be timid in enforcing the laws that protect our rights, our environment and our principles, as long as I have the opportunity to lead this great department. This may be a break from the immediate past, but it is consistent with the long history of the Department of Justice.

I call on every employee of this department from this moment on to return to the practices that are the foundation of this entity. It is time once again to base our actions on policies that are rooted in fairness and in the desire to ensure a more just America.

I look forward to the years ahead, as we will restore this institution that is central to what is best about the American experience with a rededication to those values that are old and yet are timeless; with a welcome obligation to future generations; and with an unswervering (sic) commitment to justice for all of our people. We will remake the Department of Justice into what it was and into what it always must be.

Thank you. (Extended applause.)


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