Thank you very much, Roscoe. And thank you for your leadership here in the District of Columbia in enforcing our laws, protecting the public, and ensuring justice for crime victims.

For the last 24 years, we have set aside this special week to remember crime victims and their families and to honor all those who work on their behalf. The Department of Justice is privileged to sponsor National Crime Victims Rights Week each April, and I want to thank all of you for joining us tonight to help pay tribute to these very special Americans.

Through the hard work and dedication of thousands of victim advocates throughout the country, supported by the federal leadership provided through the Office for Victims of Crime, we have made significant progress over the past two decades in recognizing the needs and ensuring the rights of the innocent victims of crime in our country.

Today, our criminal justice practitioners are more aware of the needs and rights of crime victims. Our federal and state legislatures have passed new laws to protect victims' rights and to increase penalties for criminal offenders. And, with the help of more than $5 billion in grants authorized by the landmark 1984 Victims of Crime Act, every state now has a program to compensate crime victims for their losses, and thousands of programs now provide comfort and services for crime victims.

But we know we have much work still to do to make sure that the values of liberty and justice for all on which our nation was founded apply to crime victims equally as they do to all Americans. I want to thank all of you for your efforts to obtain justice for crime victims, and to ensure that victims' voices are heard at every phase of our criminal justice process, as well as in the halls of our federal and state legislatures.

I know this has been a particular focus for OVC Director John Gillis. And I want to thank him for his leadership in working to make sure that victims have a voice in policy decisions affecting rights and services for crime victims and their families.

At the Department of Justice, we take very seriously our responsibility of seeking redress for crime victims by holding their offenders accountable, and - just as importantly - of working to prevent crimes from occurring in the first place, rather than merely reacting after irreparable harm already has been done.

This evening, I have the great honor and privilege of introducing a man who has worked for almost 30 years to make our communities safe, to reduce victimization, and to fulfill the promises we make to crime victims tonight.

As Missouri State Attorney General and Governor, as a United States Senator, and as the Attorney General of the United States, John Ashcroft has worked to ensure justice for crime victims and their families, to prevent crime, to protect victims' rights, and to punish perpetrators.

As Attorney General, he has strongly supported the work of the Office of Justice Programs and our Office for Victims of Crime. And for that we are all extremely grateful.

At the same time, he is leading our nation's fight against terrorism here at home. He is working to secure for law enforcement the authority and resources it needs to keep our communities safe. And he is safeguarding the civil rights of everyone in our society.

On taking the oath of office a little more than three years ago, Attorney General Ashcroft pledged to make certain that the Justice Department fulfills its promise to secure justice for all Americans.

We are very pleased that he could join us tonight as we commit ourselves to ensuring that American values include the preservation of rights and the provision of services for the innocent victims of crime and their families; as we honor the memory of those we have lost, and as we recognize those who dedicate themselves to this noble cause. Please welcome the Attorney General of the United States, John Ashcroft.