FW: Pool Report 3

From: Bender, Bryan [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Friday, February 27, 2015 7:56 PM
To: Velz, Peter; Allen, Jessica
Subject: Pool Report 3

POTUS headlined an emotional and uplifting ceremony in the Great Hall of the Justice Department to unveil the official portrait of outgoing US Attorney General US Attorney General Eric Holder – a hail and farewell replete with presidential tears, a healthy appreciation for the historic racial achievements of the Obama administration, and a surprise sendoff from the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

The event was emceed by Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, who called the Justice Department Holder’s “home for much of his professional life.”

On hand were Holder’s family and a series of dignitaries, including Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

The official portrait of the 82nd Attorney General -- the first African-American to hold the job -- was unveiled against back lit curtains of deep blue festooned with the Justice Department seal.

“Eric has more gray hair than that,” POTUS quipped in beginning his remarks in honor of his “great friend," adding, “Eric is just milking this departure thing for everything it’s worth. I mean, golly.”

POTUS outlined a series of major accomplishments under Holder, who he noted was the third longest serving attorney general in the nation’s history and “one of our finest.” (“I know it felt even longer,” he told is friend.

He cited “hundreds of terrorism convictions; the largest mafia take down in history;billion dollar financial fraud cases; long overdue reforms to our criminal justice system." He said under Holder's leadership “the overall crime rate and the incarceration rate” were down together in the first time in 40 years.

Obama also credited Holder for “relentlessly” trying to roll back efforts to weaken the Voting Rights Act, for “bringing a record number of prosecutions for human trafficking and gate crimes,” and advancing the cause of civil rights, including ensuring same sex couples get their rightful recognition under the law.

Holder, he said, “made our nation more free and more just,” he said. “With Eric holder as its lawyer America has become a better country.”

POTUS got visibly choked up as he described Holder as a “good man.”

“Having a good men in the positions of power and authority, who are willing to fight for what’s right, that’s a rare thing,” he said, his voice appearing on the verge of breaking. "That’s a powerful thing -- something that shapes our future in ways we don’t even understand.  You make me very proud.”

Holder, who also received a leather chair as a gift during the sendoff, gave special thanks to Leahy. Through “tough times, both professional and personal,” he told Leahy, “you’ve been there for me.”

“He is a patriot in the truest sense of the word,” he added of Leahy. “I learned a lot from you.”

Holder recalled how he first came to work at the Justice Department as a 25-year-old law school graduate.

“The beauty of this department is that at its best it is like our country,” he said. “Always growing, always changing, always being vigilant…”

“Make no mistake: We still have unfinished business,” he continued. “Historic wrongs visited upon our native people must be righted. The growing disparity in income equality “must be reversed.”

He also singled out the challenges to the Voting Rights Act, insisting to loud applause from the hundreds of Justice Department employees in the hall that “at all cost, at all cost, the right to vote must be protected.”

Holder expressed hope that the fight for justice will continue, listing a number of famous American pioneers for change  -- Franklin Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass Susan B. Anthony, John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harvey Milk, among them. Pausing for effect, he added, “Barack Obama."

When the wild applause died down, Holder added, “We should not fear change. It is part of who we are. It is what distinguishes us. It is what makes us unique. I leave this place proud of what we have accomplished over the last six years.”

Holder also thanked his parents, his extended family, and those who knew and supported his historic journey from “a black kid from East Elmhurst, Queens, New York City…my crew at 24th Avenue and 101st Street.”

“I am grateful to this great nation. Thank you, America.”

Holder, directing his closing remarks to the employees of the Justice Department, quoted musician Duke Ellington.

“I will miss you as I have loved you all, madly. I love you madly.”

It was the perfect segue for the “special musical guest" to end the event.

“It is someone who has the utmost respect and when I say respect, I mean R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” Yates introduced Franklin, who entered the hall from a side entrance as the hall filled with nearly a minute of applause and dozens in the audience took their smart phones back out.

As both Holder and POTUS looked on, tears welling in their eyes, the 72-year-old Franklin performed a resounding and personalized version of America the Beautiful in the attorney general's honor.

POTUS’ motorcade departed the Justice Department at 6:28 pm and arrived at the South Portico of the White House at 6:30 pm.

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Bryan Bender

Boston Globe Washington Bureau

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