If she could do that for me, then the late nights, the press of responsibility, any burdens of leadership I might feel are absolutely weightless.
My own two brothersone a minister like Buckner's, the other a Navy SEAL like no otheralso have given me a great deal to live up to.
All of which Emory Buckner, son and grandson of farmers and preachers, pushed not just to excel but to also lift others up, would have understood.
He would have understood why I went to the Rwandan war crimes tribunal, where I met other role models, ordinary people who lived through extraordinary trial and tribulation, who made any sacrifice I have considered as such completely inconsequential. I learned to be a prosecutor in Brooklyn, and I recall spending time with people who told me how they'd been trained in the most efficient way to kill someone, and dispose of bodies. I spent time with the families of murder victims, and sat with them and sometimes cried with them.
Yet nothing can prepare you to hear the story of a woman who survived an attack carried out on a crowd of people in a churchyard by hiding under a pile of dead bodies and pretending to be one of them. Or to hear the story of a woman whose employer promised to smuggle her out of the country, away from the genocide but instead took her money and betrayed her to the killers. She narrowly escaped with her life, and showed me the marks still on her skull where the machete nearly ended her time on this earth. Still mistrustful of the tribunal system, these people and so many more told their stories to me in the hopes it would help someone else and bring justice to other victims. In that way, I was given both the gift of their trust and the opportunity to serve.
All of that Emory Buckner would have understood.
He would have understood as well the privilege I was given when I was asked to return to the Eastern District.
The man who wrote "civil office in time of peace is the greatest honor which can be conferred upon a citizen by his country,"1 understood that when you are at the helm of an office of dedicated public professionals, you are not just running an office, you are shaping a generation. Your obligation is not just to process cases, but to take young lawyers and give them the tools and the understanding to see the whole case and focus not just on winning but on doing the right thing, because that way not only is justice is truly served, it is made a part of them.
My return to the EDNY has been wonderful. I work with an extraordinary group of people who work all day and well into the night to keep this city, our district, this country safe. I am so proud of all that they dofrom a national security practice that has tried more terrorism cases since 9/11, in Article III courts than any other office in the country, to the leading MS-13 gang program in the country, the crafting of institutional change in the construction industry here in New York, the protection of the victims of human trafficking, the defense of the government in litigation, the protection of the environment, to so many more areas where they absolutely shine.
Every time I have asked them to do more, they have risen to the occasion. When I have asked them to focus on outreach to our Arab and Muslim communities in the wake of intense backlash from some of the very work we do, they have answered the call. When I have moved to institutionalize our community outreach efforts the response has been overwhelming, from working with re-entry programs to starting our office's high school moot court coaching program.