Eric Holder's opening statement reflects the historic nature of his nomination as attorney general. If confirmed, he will be the first black attorney general in U.S. history.
Holder also sought to defuse GOP criticism over the Marc Rich pardon and other controversies during his earlier DOJ service under former President Clinton.
"My decisions were not always perfect," Holder said. "I made mistakes. I hope that enough of my decisions were correct to justify the gratifying support I have received from colleagues in law enforcement in recent weeks. But with benefit of hindsight, I can see my errors clearly and I can tell you how I learned from them."
"I could not have arrived at this moment without the sacrifice and example of so many others," Holder added in his prepared statement.
"I served almost thirty years as a prosecutor, judge, and senior official within the Department of Justice," Holder said. "President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden asked me to assume this responsibility because I know they will fight terrorism with every available tool and reinvigorate the Department's traditional missions of protecting public safety and safeguarding our precious civil rights."
Holder made reference to his late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones, who faced segregation personally in Alabama during the early 1960s.
"One of those who on the front lines in the struggle for equality was my late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones, who integrated the University of Alabama in 1963," Holder said. "In an atmosphere of hate almost unimaginable to us today, she and fellow student James Hood faced down Governor George Wallace, and in the presence of then-Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, they enrolled in the University."
Holder pledged to pursue a "very specific set of goals" if approved as attorney general: fighting terrorism; work "to restore the credibility of a Department badly shaken by allegations of improper political interference"; "reinvigorate the traditional missions of the Justice Department," including combating financial fraud, defending civil rights and protecting American consumers.
"President-elect Obama and I respect Congress," Holder said. "And we respect the federal judiciary. We will carry out our constitutional duties within the framework set forth by the Founders, and the humility to recognize that congressional oversight and judicial review are necessary, beneficial attributes of our system of government. In particular, I know how much wisdom resides in this committee from your collective decades of service in government, and I will be sure to draw on it."