NOVEMBER 18, 2015
With the recent attacks of Paris frequently mentioned, Fordham’s Stein Center last night honored one of the United States’ leading practitioners of the balance between executing justice and protecting national values, former Attorney General Eric Holder.
In turn, Holder issued a directive to the 150 alumni, friends, colleagues and supporters gathered at the annual Stein Prize dinner, during which Holder received Fordham’s top award for public service.
“Some would just despair, but in times of national stress, lawyers are often at their best,” he said in his acceptance remarks.
“Studies have shown that lawyers are disproportionately responsible for the greatest advancements in the past decades. Wherever you are and whatever you do, you have the power to serve, so find the time, the program, or the cause to serve your fellow citizens and improve their lives.”
Professional duty in the advancement of human rights and social justice was very much the theme of the event, as reflected in the Stein Center’s choice of honoree, according to dinner’s moderators, Fordham President, Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., and Law School Dean Matthew Diller.
“We’re not just honoring you for your achievements, but for your principles, your great heart, your devotion to justice and your willingness to ask and answer the deep, unsettling questions that challenge our society,” McShane said, “For us, you continue to be part nudge and part prophet, as you show us how to live our lives marked by a noble purpose.”
In his remarks, Dean Diller recalled some of the past recipients of the Stein Prize, which had included Supreme Court Justices, Secretaries of State and other U.S. Attorneys General, and applauded the many contributors to the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics. He also made clear the reasons Holder was a fit for the award.
“Mr. Holder has always said the Attorney General’s job was never about winning cases or gaining leverage, but about achieving ‘just ends’,” Diller said, citing some of Holder’s advancements during his six-year-tenure at the Justice Department, including an effort to resurrect the Voting Rights Act and release nonviolent drug offenders from prison.
“In late September of last year, Mr. Holder formally announced his resignation as attorney general, but made it abundantly clear that he was not resigning his commitment to his – and his country’s – values,” Diller said. He said: “I will leave the Department of Justice, but ‘I will never leave the work; I will continue to serve and find ways to make our nation even more true to its founding ideals.”
Holder, the 82nd U.S. Attorney General appointed by President Barack Obama in January 2009 became the first African-American man to hold the office. He left in April to return to private practice at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., where he represents such clients as Merck and the National Football League.
First awarded in 1976, the Fordham-Stein Prize is presented annually to a member of the legal community whose work embodies the highest standards of the profession. Prize recipients exemplify outstanding professional conduct; promote the advancement of justice; and bring credit to the profession by emphasizing in the public mind the contributions of lawyers to our society and to our democratic system of government.