Transcripts of remarks made by President-elect Biden and Vanita Gupta at an event in Delaware on January 7, where the Associate Attorney General nominee was introduced.
As Associate Attorney General, the number three job at the department, I nominate Vanita Gupta.
A woman I have known for some time, one of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America.
Started her career at the NAACP legal defense fund, then onto the ACLU, both organizations which I belong. And then to the Justice Department during the Obama-Biden administration, where she led the Civil rights division. At every step, with every case, she fought for greater equity and to right the wrongs of the justice system, where they existed. And she has done so by bringing people together earning praise from across the ideological spectrum for her approach to solving some of the thorniest problems we face. During the Obama-Biden administration, Vanita was put in charge of investigating the abuse of power in police departments in Fergusson, Missouri, and other communities torn apart by acts of violence and racial injustice. She helped institute common sense police reforms to build greater equity, safety and trust. She was commended for her work by both law enforcement and those advocating for the changes in the criminal justice system. That’s a rare achievement.
And it speaks volumes about her capacity to unite people in common purpose, which is what this is all about. Uniting American people.
Born in Philadelphia, a proud daughter of Indian immigrants from India [looking at Vice President-elect Kamala Harris] That sounds familiar? If confirmed, Vanita would the first woman of color to serve as the Associate Attorney General. I am grateful, I am grateful that Vanita is leaving her current job, leaving one of the premier civil rights organizations in the world as she answers the call once again to ensure that our justice system is even more fair and more equitable. Thank you.
Vanita Gupta’s remarks:
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect. Thank you for the opportunity to serve this nation. I want to thank my family and my parents who taught me early on the values that led me to civil rights work and public service. I am humbled and honored to return to the Department of Justice. It is an institution that I love so, so dearly. And to once again work alongside the exceptional women and men, who everyday defend the constitution, enforce our federal laws and seek to create a more perfect union with deep integrity and without political interference. There are many agencies in the federal government, but actually only one that bears the name of a value. By virtue of that name, that value of justice, we know the department carries a unique charge, in North Star. At its best, it is the keeper of a sacred promise. It’s the promise of equal justice for all. That no one is above the law. And when this promise is pursued with vigor, it brings life to our nation and serves as a beacon to the world. But when abandoned, we degrade our democracy and sow the division that we come to know all too well.
The first time I felt the absence of that promise was as a four-year old child, one of my earliest memories. My parents were proud immigrants from India, an opportunity that was made possible by the civil rights movement and the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. One day, I was sitting in a McDonald’s restaurant with my sister, mother and grandmother. And as we ate our meal, a group of skinheads at the next table began shouting ethnic slurs at us, throwing food at us, until we had to leave the restaurant. It is an early memory, but one that seared in my mind. That feeling never left me — of what it means to be made to feel unsafe because of who you are. I kept another feeling with me though, too. And that is the one that has been ingrained in me by my parents and shared by my husband, whose family… fled violence and war in Vietnam and sought refuge on these shores. They believed more than anything in the promise of America and that loving this country brings with it the obligations to do the necessary work to make it better. Those two feelings, for me, converge in the work ahead of us. Yesterday’s horrific events at the Capitol reminded us that our democracy cannot be taken for granted. That our nation has a long history of disinformation, white supremacist violence, mob violence. It also reminded us that our values and our constitution and our democracy, these do not protect themselves. It is people with courage who do that. And I am honored to return to a department that I know will push every day for justice, accountability and equality under the law. It will not be enough to restore what’s been undermined or lost.
This moment demands bold leadership. The Department of Justice, as it is done throughout its storied history, will have to uncover and reckon with hard truths, hold people, companies and institutions accountable to our constitutions and laws, drive change where there is injustice, and heal a nation that is starving for leadership and decency and hope. Now is the time to ensure that our economic system works for everyone, that we can protect the health and safety of all of the American people. And that we will harness all of the Justice Department’s levers for civil rights, justice, and police reform, and climate justice, and so much more. As the late Congressman John Lewis said, democracy is not a state, it is an act. And I pledge to the American people that if confirmed, I will act for justice every day. I pledge that to you President elect. I pledge that to you Vice President elect. I am honored, deeply honored, for the chance to work together with activists for justice, with law enforcement, with this extraordinary team that I am so humbled to serve, with the incredible women and men at the Justice Department to strengthen our democracy and to make equal justice under a law, a real promise for all. Thank you so much for this opportunity.