Jimmy Carter photo

Attorney General of the United States Remarks at the Swearing In of Griffin B. Bell.

January 26, 1977

This is a great day in my own life and, I believe, a great day in the life of our Nation.

One of the most crucial appointments that a President can make is that of Attorney General, because here we have not a department of law, but a department of justice.

To the maximum degree possible, the Attorney General should personify what the President of the United States is-attitudes, philosophies, commitments-because here is an extension of the President's attempt to provide equality of opportunity and a sense of trust in the core of our American governmental institutions in Washington.

About 7 or 8 years ago, because of a chasm that developed between our own Government and many of our people, the doors of this building next door had to be locked. I don't doubt the need for it at the time. But it was a symbolic separation of both disaffected people and disadvantaged people from the core of justice. A few minutes ago, Griffin Bell opened those doors--and they are going to be kept open.

There may be times when we wish they were closed. There may be times when I as President wish that I was not quite so accessible to the news media and to the people of this country. But that's part of a democratic process. And I want to be sure that everything I do, everything Griffin Bell does, and everything all of you do is conducive to a restoration of trust and harmony, a sharing of responsibility, and a sharing of opportunity in the greatest nation of all.

I want to congratulate Griffin Bell on his fine vote yesterday. I noticed in my engineering computations that he got 78 percent of the votes in the Senate. I only got a little over 50 percent as President. [Laughter]

I think this is a very good comparison between his experience and background and capability to perform this important job, compared to my own. We have a lot to learn, and we'll learn together.

I think all of you know that I have implicit trust in Judge Griffin Bell. And his performance in office, working closely with me, with the Supreme Court, with the Congress, with those throughout our Nation responsible for the administration of justice, will demonstrate again that what I said in Plains a month or two ago is true--that I have selected, and the Senate has now confirmed, a man who will not just be an adequate Attorney General but who will be a great Attorney General. I have no doubt about that prediction coming true.

I want to say this in closing: 24 years ago today, Warren Burger was given an oath of office here as an assistant to the Attorney General. He has demonstrated through his own sense of fairness and his intelligence and his administrative capability and his justified reputation that he deserves to be our top legal officer in this country. And I'm very grateful that our Chief Justice, Warren Burger, has come to administer the oath to our Attorney General.

Mr. Chief Justice, I appreciate your presence. It's an honor for us to be here with you. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:20 a.m. in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice. Following his remarks, Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger administered the oath of office.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, the President toured the Justice Department.

Jimmy Carter, Attorney General of the United States Remarks at the Swearing In of Griffin B. Bell. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242952

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