Loretta Lynch was sworn in Monday morning by Vice President Joe Biden as the 83rd U.S. attorney general during a moving ceremony at the U.S. Department of Justice.
The long-awaited ceremony followed a rancorous debate over the Republican Senate’s five-month delay to confirm Lynch in a partisan dispute with President Barack Obama.
Finally confirmed last week, Lynch, 55, on Monday was flanked by her husband, Stephen Hargrove, and father, Lorenzo, as Biden sang her praises during the ceremony that was broadcast live on CNN and observed by NewsOne. He began by saying she and her predecessor, Eric H. Holder Jr., are cut from the same cloth.
“Loretta Lynch will exceed the high standards set for her because she is cut from the exact same cloth as [Holder],” Biden said. “Both she and Eric embody the mantra of one their predecessors [Robert F. Kennedy], a man after whom this building is named who said, ‘The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.’”
Biden also paid homage to Lynch’s 83-year-old father, a Baptist preacher, who has played an important role in her personal and professional life. Lynch, the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District in New York, graduated from Harvard Law School and Harvard College.
“As I’ve read, your dad always taught you to stand up for what’s right, speak out for what’s just, get up when you get knocked down and move on,” Biden said. “And following her father’s example, she excelled in everything she’s done from the time she was a child. She’s never been limited by the lower expectations of others, but has always exceeded those expectations she set for herself.
“For 30 years, she has been a fair-minded, independent lawyer and prosecutor as a U.S. attorney and in private practice,” he continued. “She has shown resolve to prosecuting and jailing terrorists, mobsters and gang members. She’s shown fidelity to the law, rooted out public corruption. She’s shown determination to bring down financial fraudsters and child abusers. She’s shown a dogged pursuit to bust human trafficking rings she has encountered. She has shown an unyielding commitment to the law and basic human rights. She has shown us her entire life who she is, so believe her.”
With that, Lynch was confirmed by placing her left hand on the Bible and raising the right one. In remarks, given after resounding applause, she even joked about the long delay in her confirmation.
“Well, here we are,” she said laughing. “I have to say as I look out on all of you gathered here today, it seems like such an understatement to say that my heart is full, but it is. It is full of the most deep and profound gratitude that I’ve felt in quite some time. I must, of course, thank the people who have made it possible for me to stand her today. First and foremost, I have to thank the president for his faith in me and asking me to lead the department that I love to even greater heights.”
Read the entire transcript below:
As I look out over all of you gathered here today, my overwhelming reaction is one of profound gratitude. I must, of course, thank the President for his faith in me in asking me to lead the department that I love to even greater heights.
Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for your presence and your comments here today, and for your steadfast support and wise counsel throughout the process. I also must thank Senators Schumer and Leahy for their support, over the years and now, and for making the floor of the U.S. Senate a welcoming place for me and my family. And of course, my wonderful family. As you can see, we’re quite a force multiplier!
Many of you have come to know my father through this process. He has been at every hearing and every vote. But he didn’t just start now. I remember looking up as a young Assistant U.S. Attorney starting my first trial and seeing him there – and he came to every one thereafter. He has encouraged me in all things, even when my choices were not the ones he would have made for me. In that, he has been the best of fathers. Without him, I would not be here today, being sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States, just one week after his 83rd birthday.
And my mother, who could not be here today but is never far from my thoughts or my heart. She grew up in a world where she was always told what she could not do or could not be, but always knew in her heart that she could soar. She did what would have seemed impossible in the small North Carolina town of her youth. She raised a daughter whom she always told, whatever the dream, whether lawyer, prosecutor or even Attorney General, “of course you can.”
I must also thank my wonderful husband, who has supported all of my choices and my dreams. I would not trade his love and support for all the riches in the world – because to me, they are all the riches in the world.
Thanks also go to my colleagues and friends here in the department, in the Eastern District of New York, and beyond. But even more than that, tremendous thanks go to the literally thousands of people, many of whom I have never met, who have expressed their support throughout the process. From the sisterhood of my sorority and all the Greeks who came together, to churches and schools and people on the street who have stopped me and said just a word or two – please know that those few words sometimes made all the difference in the world to me as I traveled this road.
I thank you all, as I prepare to join once again with the outstanding people of the Department of Justice. I have been privileged to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you twice before from the Eastern District of New York. You are the ones who make real the promise of justice and redress for all Americans. I am honored beyond words to step into the larger role today as your Attorney General, as we continue the core work of our mission – the protection of the American people.
All of the people here at the department are here because at some point in our lives, we all said, “I want to be a lawyer.” “I want to be a law enforcement officer.” “I want to be a federal agent.” “I want to be someone’s hero.”
At the heart of that – for me and for all of us – whether attorney or agent, staff or principal – is the desire to leave this world a better place for us having been a part of it.
The challenge in that – for you, for me, for all of us that love this department and love the law – is to use the law to that end. To not just represent the law and enforce it, but use it to make real the promise of America, the promise of fairness and equality, “of liberty and justice for all.” We are all just here for a time – whether in this building or even on this earth. But the values we hold dear will live on long after we have left this stage. Our responsibility, while we are here, is to breathe life into them; to imbue them with the strength of our convictions and the weight of our efforts.
I know this can be done.
Because I am here to tell you, if a little girl from North Carolina who used to tell her grandfather in the fields to lift her up on the back of his mule, so she could see “way up high, Granddaddy,” can become the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America, then we can do anything.
We can imbue our criminal justice system with both strength and fairness, for the protection of both the needs of victims and the rights of all. We can restore trust and faith both in our laws and in those of us who enforce them. We can protect the most vulnerable among us from the scourge of modern-day slavery – so antithetical to the values forged in blood in this country. We can protect the growing cyber world. We can give those in our care both protection from terrorism and the security of their civil liberties. We will do this as we have accomplished all things both great and small – working together, moving forward, and using justice as our compass.
I cannot wait to begin that journey.
Thank you all for being here, both today and in my life.
SOURCE: Transcript from the U.S. Department of Justice | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO SOURCE: NDN