Under the Dome

Loretta Lynch in speech to Justice Department: ‘Use the law to make real the promise of America’

Loretta Lynch laughs as Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a swearing in ceremony for Lynch as she becomes the 83rd Attorney General of the U.S., Monday, April 27, 2015, at the Justice Department in Washington.
Loretta Lynch laughs as Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a swearing in ceremony for Lynch as she becomes the 83rd Attorney General of the U.S., Monday, April 27, 2015, at the Justice Department in Washington. AP

New U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in a speech at the Justice Department after she was sworn in on Monday, spoke of her beginnings as “a little girl from North Carolina” and the strong encouragement she got from her parents.

Lynch also urged her colleagues “to use the law to make real the promise of America – the promise of fairness, the promise of equality, of liberty and justice for all.

“I’ve been reminded recently that we’re all just here for a time, whether in this building or even on this Earth,” she said. “But the values that we hold dear will live on long after we’ve left the stage. It’s our responsibility, it’s our mission, while we are here, to breathe life into them, to imbue them with the strength of our convictions and the weight of our efforts.

“I know that this can be done,” she went on. “Because I’m 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 grow up to become the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America, we can do anything.”

Applause filled the room.

Lynch, who had been U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, had waited more than five months to be confirmed by the Senate since President Barack Obama chose her as his attorney general. The Senate voted 56-43 to confirm her nomination on Thursday. North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis voted no.

In her speech of less than eight minutes, Lynch thanked the president, vice president, some supportive senators and her family. She grew up in Durham before she attended Harvard University. Her parents, the Rev. Lorenzo and Lorine Lynch, live in Durham.

“Many of you have come to know my father throughout this process. He’s been at every hearing and every vote. But he didn’t just start now. I remember looking up as a young AUSA (Assistant U.S. Attorney), preparing to do my very first trial, and seeing him in the gallery. And he was there for every one thereafter.

“He has encouraged me in all things, even when my choices were not the ones he would have made for me. And in that he has been the best of fathers and I thank you for it,” Lynch said as her father stood nearby. She added that she was being sworn in as the 83rd U.S. attorney general one week after her father’s 83rd birthday.

Her mother, she said, “grew up in a world where she was always told what she could not do or whom she could not be, but she always knew that she could soar. And she did what would have seemed impossible in that small North Carolina town of her youth. She raised a daughter she always told whatever the dream – to be a lawyer, a prosecutor, or the attorney general – of course you can.”

And she thanked her husband, Stephen Hargrove, adding, “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.”

She also thanked colleagues and friends, her sorority, churches who supported her nomination and people on the street she didn’t know who stopped her for a quick word of support.

“Please know that sometimes those words made all the difference to me as I traveled this road,” she said.

In her speech, Lynch also outlined some key themes for the Justice Department:

“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.

“And we can give those in our care both the protection from terrorism and the security of their civil liberties.

“My friends we will do this as we have accomplished all things both great and small, working together, moving forward and using justice as our compass,” she said. “And I’m here to tell you I cannot wait to begin that journey with all of you.”

Watch the swearing-in ceremony here.