Attorney General Ashcroft Speaks at ADL Leadership Conference
Highlights from the Speech

Read the Full Text of Ashcroft's Speech

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In an address to more than 600 ADL leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., for the annual ADL Shana Glass National Leadership Conference, Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke of the Justice Department's efforts to counteract terrorism, to combat discrimination and prosecute Nazi war criminals. He also outlined the administration's approach to issues affecting the Department of Justice.

The following are excerpts from his address, which was given on Tuesday, May 1, 2001:

On the Justice Department:

"One of the clearest charges of the Department of Justice now is to make sure that no person stands ahead of another person by virtue of the structure of government in terms of potential, that regardless of race, regardless of creed, regardless of religion, individuals in this culture deserve an equal opportunity and their potential should be unlimited."

On Terrorism:

"As we find ourselves involved in a world which is compressed by transportation, we find ourselves involved in a world which is characterized by an interrelated and international criminal activity, and we've got to be prepared to respond, especially to terrorists who would seek, as a result of their own aspirations, to shape or to curtail liberty in America."

"We must protect Americans from radical terrorists, people who have confused patriotism with terrorism, and that confusion cannot be allowed to be projected as some sort of truth. It is a confusion and distortion to say that terrorism is patriotism. A patriot gives his own life for his country. The terrorist takes the lives of innocent women and children and says that it's for the country. We must battle this distorted view of saving America by destroying America, which is what those in this terrorist community all seek to sell."

On Discrimination and Racial Profiling:

"We must battle discrimination vigorously, because it, too, will destroy our country. That's why racial profiling is an area of special concern to me. It is totally unacceptable and un-American to think that there would be a problem of `driving while Hispanic' or `driving while African American' in America. It simply is unacceptable. I think it violates the Constitution to say that individuals are treated differentially, based on their race. ...

On the Cincinnati race riots:

"We went to Cincinnati a few weeks ago. Some of you watched -- all of you, perhaps -- that story unfold. And it was not one of those chapters in our history for which we are particularly grateful. But I'd have to say that we sent the Community Relations Service of the Department of Justice early to that city, trying to help heal the racial tensions. And I talked to President Mfume of the NAACP, and when he called me, we had had our people on the ground for a couple of days in Cincinnati working, and to cooperate together. But we want to try and fix the problem, not just fix the blame."

On Bringing Nazi War Criminals to Justice:

"I want to express personally my gratitude, my gratitude to the ADL for its assistance that it provides to us, particularly in the worldwide search for survivor witnesses in these respects. And frankly, I note with special appreciation the fact that in 1997 the ADL presented its inaugural International Human Rights Award to the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigation. Our nation is home to thousands of survivors of Hitler's grotesque genocidal ambitions, and one of those survivors is your National Director Abe Foxman.

"American families sacrificed 200,000 of their precious sons in the battle to bring an end to the Nazi reign of terror, and seeking justice in these heart-rending cases is both a moral imperative, a solemn legal obligation, and a debt we owe to those who gave all. I want to pledge to you that the Department of Justice will continue to leave no stone unturned in seeking to bring justice to those who took part in the monstrous crimes of the Nazi regime."


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2001 Anti-Defamation League