Updated 4:54 p.m.
When First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage at the Justice Department today, hundreds of staff and attorneys gave her a rousing applause. Dozens of spectators held up mobile phones to snap photos and record video. Her arrival had the feel of a pep rally.
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. joked that the response was “typical” for the ovation he gets when he speaks in the Great Hall at Main Justice.
Michelle Obama continued her tour of federal agencies today with a stop at the Justice Department, speaking to employees for about 13 minutes. DOJ employees lined up more than two hours in advance of the 11:30 a.m. speech hoping to snag a spot.
Obama said Holder has “been around the block a few times” as a lawyer but he has never lost “that sense of responsibility that comes from working to uphold our highest legal principles. It’s a responsibility that all of you share.”
Holder got to know Michelle Obama on the campaign trail. “I can tell you, like the president, she has a brilliant legal mind,” Holder said. “I’ve been so impressed by her legal skills that I’m going to make her an offer right now.”
Several DOJ officials, including Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, had seats in the front of the Great Hall. The hundreds of staff and lawyers all stood in the room. DOJ officials even opened up the balcony above the hall to allow spectators to stand there.
“You’re making sacrifices. You miss time with your families. And often you do it without getting any recognition from anyone,” Obama said. “So I want to let you know how much that we value everything that you are doing here, however long you have been doing it.”
She praised the pro bono work performed by DOJ employees in, among other areas, landlord-tenant disputes and domestic violence cases. And Obama said the work at Justice has never been more important in the civil rights, consumer safety and terror prosecution arenas.
“That’s especially true in the wake of the worst environmental disaster that we’ve ever faced here in this nation,” Obama said. “Many folks here in this agency are working tirelessly to ensure that accountability is going on and that we’re protecting taxpayer dollars and that we’re helping those affected by the oil spill really get back on their feet. People need to know that the Department of Justice is at the center of that work.”
After speaking, she walked into the crowd and shook hands for a few minutes. The mobile phone cameras and video came out again. The attorney general is surely in a photograph or two.
Here are the names of the Justice Department employees who had seats on stage this morning for Michelle Obama's speech. Obama thanked the group, which represented some of the longest-serving DOJ employees. On stage with Obama and Holder were:
William Wiggins, legal assistant, Civil Division; Eugene Crane, mail clerk, Civil Division; Robert Kopp, director of appellate staff, Civil Division; Myra Wagstaff, civil rights analyst, Civil Rights Division; John Kenney, deputy assistant attorney general, Criminal Division; Earl Hostetler, supervisory electronics technician, FBI; Mary C. Smith, telephone operator, FBI; Marcia M. Taylor, support services technician, FBI; Barbara J. Russell, security specialist, Justice Management Division; Patricia Ann Belcher, procurement analyst, Justice Management Division.
More photos after the jump.