WASHINGTON (May 24, 2011) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered the following Keynote Address at the Department of Justice Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month event on Tuesday. He was introduced by Richard Toscano of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office in the Justice Management Division.
“It’s a pleasure to be part of this celebration, and I want to thank each of you – especially our program participants, including the color guard from the Military District of Washington, and all of our distinguished guests – for helping us commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
“Across the country, for more than two decades now, Americans have been coming together each May to reflect on how far our nation and, especially, citizens of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have traveled on the long and – too often – difficult road toward equality, empowerment, and freedom.
As we commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we pay tribute to the contributions – and sacrifices – made by generations who have done so much to enrich our nation’s history, and who will be essential to its future success. In particular, we recognize and salute the men and women who – today – are carrying this work forward throughout the Justice Department – not only here in Washington, but at every level, and in every office and component, around the world.
But this event is more than just a celebration of all that has been accomplished up to this point. It’s also a solemn reminder of the obstacles to equal justice and equal opportunity that, unfortunately, persist. And it’s an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the continued progress – and unwavering vigilance – that must be not only our shared priority, but our common cause.
We know, as Americans, that progress is never automatic. Our history has demonstrated, time and again, that the promise of equal rights and equal justice can be achieved only through the steadfast work of dedicated individuals. And despite all the advancements that have been made in recent decades, this is no time for complacency or apathy.
As individuals, as a Department, and as a nation, we cannot – and we must not – be satisfied with the status quo. For, in spite of all the accomplishments we celebrate today, and all that Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have accomplished in overcoming the struggles of the past, we must remember that these achievements are merely a prelude to even greater fulfillments, even richer diversity, and even more opportunities.
Today, let us take new ownership of these efforts. Here at the Justice Department, we are more committed than ever to this critical progress – which must begin with a clear look at where we are and where, ultimately, we need to be. There is good cause to celebrate the diversity of our country and of our workforce – but we have much more to do.
Together, we must find new ways to build on the groundbreaking work of the Federal Asian Pacific American Council, DOJ Pan Asia, and our other employee organizations – as well as our landmark Diversity Management Initiative – to promote diversity among the ranks of the Department’s career professionals, as well as its leadership.
Like you, I believe that the Department’s strength and credibility is rooted in the fact that our workforce includes qualified individuals whose backgrounds reflect our nation’s rich diversity. And we must make certain that our work environment encourages every employee to develop, to grow, and to thrive both personally and professionally. In the days to come, I look forward to working with each of you as we continue the important business of ensuring that diversity and equal justice are not merely noble aspirations, but permanent realities, for all Americans.
I’m proud to count you all as partners in this effort. And, now, I’m pleased to turn things over to a key ally in this work – a leader whose life story and distinguished career exemplify the finest legacy of service, and the enduring promise of the American dream. Please join me in welcoming our keynote speaker – and my good friend – Acting Solicitor General, Neal Katyal.