Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, Acting Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Awards Ceremony
April 11, 2008
Thank you, John [Gillis]. It’s a privilege to be part of this event.
Attorney General Mukasey, welcome. We’re very glad that you could join us today.
And welcome to all of you – victim advocates, service providers, criminal justice professionals, and crime victims.
It’s an honor for me to be here today. In addition to having the pleasure of serving as Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs, I continue to be the Director of OJP’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. As John mentioned, I also come from an academic background, having taught on the college level for almost 30 years. So I’ve spent a lot of my time immersed in data and theory surrounding crime and victimization. . . although my staff remind me daily that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I know.
But one thing I have learned over the years – and it’s really been brought home to me during my time at OJP – is that one cannot fully appreciate the impact of crime without talking to someone who has lived through it.
I remember hearing the story of a social worker who visited the troubled Carver Terrace neighborhood here in D.C. He said he met a 10-year-old boy there and struck up a conversation. He was a friendly kid and they were having a good chat, and at some point he asked this amiable young man what he wanted to be when he grew up. The boy’s answer threw him for a loop: He said he didn’t think he would grow older. Most of the men in his family were already dead or in prison.
A simple question you might ask any young person: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For most kids, it’s an exciting question to ponder; the possibilities are endless. But for this young boy, not even out of elementary school, the thought of growing up meant danger and violence and death. . . the kinds of things kids aren’t even supposed to think about.
It’s sobering to consider that this is the reality for many people. . . which is why the work that you do, and the kind of dedication we recognize today in our award recipients, are so important and so remarkable. The value of the work that you do is not simply in attending to a physical injury or alleviating a financial loss. The real value of what you do is much deeper, in mending the spirit and in giving hope.
Thousands of people across the country are devoted to this high calling. Each of them is helping to make our criminal justice system – and our nation – more responsive to the needs of crime victims. And their efforts have paid real dividends. Thousands of communities now have programs dedicated to serving victims. Countless victims’ rights laws are on the books, and most states have enshrined basic victims’ rights in their constitutions. Federal legislation not only protects victims’ rights, but provides mechanisms for enforcing those rights. And more people than ever are working to relieve the suffering that crime victims endure.
We have come a long way, thanks to the extraordinary people who make up the field of victims’ rights and services. The men and women we honor today are in the vanguard of that field. They have shown us that, even among extraordinary people, it is possible to stand out. I congratulate them on being selected to receive these prestigious awards. But more importantly, I thank them for their commitment and service.
It is now my honor to introduce the Attorney General.
Michael Mukasey was sworn in as our nation’s 81st Attorney General on November 9, 2007. Prior to that time, he was a lawyer in private practice and served as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for 18 years. As a federal judge, he presided over hundreds of trials dealing with areas of priority to the Department of Justice. He also served as an Assistant United States Attorney in New York and was chief of that district’s Official Corruption Unit.
During his time at the Department of Justice, Attorney General Mukasey has worked to strengthen partnerships with state, local, and tribal law enforcement to address violent crime in America’s communities. He recognizes that meeting the needs and advancing the rights of crime victims are central to our nation’s response to crime.
He was with us at last night’s candlelight observance, and we are honored to have him with us again today. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the Attorney General of the United States, Michael Mukasey.