That has always been the core mission of this department. It is the story told by the murals that adorn the walls of your headquarters, installed years ago to illustrate the power of law to improve our lives.
Now I haven’t yet seen it yet myself, but I’m told that one of these murals, painted back in the 1930s, depicts black children and white children attending school together, sitting side by side in the same classroom. This was years before Brown vs. Board of Education, at a time when Washington, D.C., was still a segregated city.
It is, to this day, a moving reminder that sometimes, law lags behind justice — and it is up to us to bridge that distance. That’s been the work of Eric Holder’s life and so many of yours. I thank you for answering the call to serve this nation, and I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead to meet the urgent challenges of our time.
So thank you, God bless you. Keep up the great work, and let’s install our outstanding Attorney General. (Applause.)
(The oath of office is administered.)
ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: Thank you, Mr. President, for your remarks and for the trust that you have placed in me by asking me to lead this great department. Let me just depart here and say that he’s never going to see my New York game. (Laughter.) He’s got 10 years on me, he works out, I’m the coach of the team in which he will be playing, and nothing more than that. (Laughter.) But had I been 10 years younger — (laughter.)
I also want to recognize — there are a number of special people here today, but there’s one person I want to recognize: the wife of a person who I consider the greatest Attorney General; the building is named for that person — Ethel Kennedy. (Applause.)
I want to thank my wife, Sharon, and my three wonderful children, whose love and support sustain me. I want to say hello to my mother, who is recovering from a recent illness but who I know is watching this event. Mom, you work hard and you get well.
And I want to thank the many career professionals from the department who I see here today. Over my career, you have been my mentors, my colleagues and my friends. It is your dedication to duty and love of country that gives the Department of Justice its heart and its soul, and ensures that it lives up to the ideals enshrined in our Constitution that are our special duty to protect.
Ours is a nation of laws guided by principles that reflect the essential goodness of the American people. Many of these values — adherence to the rule of law, equality before the law, and the applicability of due process — are as well known as they are timeless. And yet these principles can only be true — truly the animating forces of our legal system if we, both individually and collectively, make it so.