Monday, March 11, 2019

National Security Group Hosts Conversation with Eric Holder

On March 7, 2019, the Yale Law National Security Group hosted a conversation with former Attorney General Eric H. Holder, who led the Department of Justice from 2009 to 2015. Yale Law National Security Group copresidents Nikita Lalwani ’20 and Josh Rubin ’20 introduced Holder, and Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law Cristina Rodríguez ’00 moderated the discussion.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, Professor Cristina Rodríguez, Josh Rubin ’20, and Nikita Lalwani ’20.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, Professor Cristina Rodríguez, Josh Rubin ’20, and Nikita Lalwani ’20.

During the hour-long event, which included questions from Rodríguez and several students in the audience, Holder discussed a wide range of subjects, including the Obama administration’s attempts to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the importance of an independent Justice Department, the role of the Attorney General in matters of national security, and the persistent threat of voter suppression.

Speaking to an audience of more than 125 students, Holder recounted many of the decisions he made as Attorney General, in particular his efforts to defend voting rights across the country. He predicted that Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court’s 2013 opinion striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, would be remembered as one of the worst decisions of the Roberts court. As the current chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, protecting voting rights remains central to Holder’s work.

“We are very grateful that Mr. Holder took time out of his busy schedule to visit Yale Law School,” Rubin ’20 said. “It was an honor not only to learn more about his experiences at the Department of Justice, but also to talk through some of the most urgent legal questions facing the country at this critical moment.”

Riffing on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous quote, Holder concluded by exhorting students to pull the arc of the moral universe toward justice by devoting at least part of their careers to public service.

“To have someone of Mr. Holder’s stature speak to us so candidly was a real privilege,” Lalwani ’20 said. “We were particularly inspired by his call to public service, and by the premium he placed on serving with integrity.”

Holder was the first African American and the third-longest serving Attorney General in U.S. history. In a career spanning more than thirty years in Washington, D.C., Holder also served as an Associate Judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and as Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration.

The Yale Law National Security Group aims to foster discussion about current issues in national security and foreign policy, and has recently hosted events with New Yorker staff writer Dexter Filkins, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley ’72, former Deputy National Security Advisor Avril Haines, and former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, among others.