IC Pride Summit: Renewing Our Commitment to Inclusion
Remarks as delivered.
Welcome to FBI Headquarters. Dave’s comments, though depressing, are true. I would just advise you, don't stand too close to the netting on the outside of the building. You can try to catch the pieces of the building as they fall off, but 100 percent is a hard target to hit. And so just stand clear of those.
We are absolutely thrilled to be hosting this year’s LGBTA summit, and thank you all for joining us today.
Here at the FBI, we very frequently use the phrase the FBI family. We talk about that a lot. We think about ourselves as a family. We are agents, we are analysts, we are linguists, we are lab technicians, scientists, cyber experts. We are crusty old agents at the end of long careers. We are brand new—new people who are charged up with energy and enthusiasm, and thank God we have some of those here as well. We are women, we are men, we're tall, we're short, we're able-bodied, and we're differently abled. We are Asian, we're African-American, Hispanic, white, gay, we're straight, we're bisexual, and we are transgender. Some of us are a mixture of several of those attributes. I say all of this to prove there is no one typical person here at the FBI. There is no one typical person in the IC. We're all unique. We're different, and that’s a wonderful thing.
Each of these qualities together makes who we are. But alone they should never be used to define us. Nor should they ever be used as a source of discrimination against us. We are different, but we should never be treated differently. Because just as we are different, we are all very much the same. We share the same values. We share the same commitment to this country. A commitment to hard work and pride in who we are and what we are as individuals, as part of the IC, but also as Americans.
We share the same goals. To serve with honesty and integrity, to protect the rule of law, and to keep this nation safe. Together we in the IC protect this country from all kinds of threats, but we know that we cannot be successful without the support of the American people. The bedrock of the IC is our credibility. The American people believe us, wherever we are—whether we're in a courtroom testifying in front of a judge or if we're on the Hill providing briefings about intelligence matters or we're just standing around at the neighborhood cookout. And it is this belief in us that enables us to do the good that we do. Our ability to maintain and strengthen that credibility and connect with Americans depends on our ability to represent them. And to represent them we must reflect the variety and the diversity that is the strength of this country.
Diversity is also about effectiveness. One of our priority initiatives here at the FBI is building a high-performing, diverse workforce. And unfortunately, over the past decade, our special agent workforce has gotten increasingly white. We are now 83 percent white, which is a very dangerous thing for an organization like the FBI. We are less effective when we grow more homogeneous in a country that is growing more diverse. But it’s about more than just being effective. It’s about what’s doing what’s right.
We should always be the bastion, the guiding light, for doing what’s right. And part of doing what is right is welcoming all people into the IC and welcoming all people into the FBI. That is why diversity is one of our core values at the FBI. We've got to make sure that people from all walks of life—more women, more people of color, more people of different ethnicities and orientations—get a clear look at us. We want to convince more people to give us a shot and to see what an amazing adventure and incredibly satisfying and enriching experience it is to work here at the FBI or across the IC. People who have the knowledge and skills that we need should want to work for us, should want to work with us, and should be comfortable with working here.
When it comes to LGBTA issues, law enforcement has evolved quite a bit since I became an agent over 20 years ago. Do we still have work to do? Yes, you know we still have work to do. Discrimination still exists, and unfortunately we have to continue making progress and continue knocking down that discrimination. Fortunately, there are positive signs everywhere. There’s more training. There’s more transparency. There’s more openness. There are gatherings like this.
Starting this month—I'll give you one example from our colleagues up north—starting this month, for the first time, the pride flag will fly over the headquarters of the Toronto Police Service. A gay female superintendent said that the flag represented “changing times” and that she “could not have imagined this day” when she started in policing 28 years ago. Atlanta recently hired its first openly gay police chief, and its second woman to lead the force. Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has an LGBT liaison unit. Sergeant Jessica Hawkins, a transgender woman, runs the unit. She started on the force in 2000 when she identified as male, and today she is one of two openly transgender officers in the department. She is with us here today. Jessica are you here? Wave around. She’s on her way. She is one of two openly transgender officers in the department, and sometimes she runs a little late. That’s okay. She’s leading one of the summit breakout sessions, which is later in the program, so no problem there. But we are so happy to have her with us today.
Just a few years ago, our sole involvement with LGBTA issues was an advisory board with a few dedicated and courageous members. Today we are proud participants in this summit. We are hosts and we recognize pride month with a special program each year. We are increasing our mentoring efforts between our different cultures and backgrounds. We've instituted more diversity and inclusion for awareness and training. We are actively recruiting LGBTA agents, analysts, and other personnel through diverse organizations, pride events, and having our employees serve as liaisons to their schools and with community groups and organizations.
Director Comey said that recruiting is not someone else’s job. It’s all of our job—it’s my job, it’s your job—every day. He’s right. And in that way it is a responsibility that every one of us has to try to make the IC more diverse. We have to get out there and show the world the true heart of the FBI and the Intelligence Community.
So I think we've mentioned already, one year ago this week, 49 of us, 49 Americans lost their lives at the Pulse Nightclub attack in Orlando. As Dave mentioned, after the shooting, we sent LGBTA employees to Orlando to help investigate and to aid victims and survivors. We knew that the attack on the Pulse nightclub was not just an attack on the LGBTA community, it was an attack on all of us. Attack on the freedoms that we all cherish as Americans. But the fact that we have a thriving, courageous, and identified LGBTA community here at the FBI enabled us to deploy that strength, that resource, that asset into the heat of the conflict in the same way that we do with everything else that makes us the FBI, whether that’s our evidence recovery team, our SWAT teams, our surveillance assets, whatever that might be. This was another element of that FBI strength. It made us more effective and it helped that community heal. And hopefully, on some fundamental level, it changed the understanding and the appreciation and the connection between a community in the United States and the FBI that serves it. That’s an incredibly powerful and valuable thing for us.
So what did we learn from all that? We learned what we already knew—we need each other. It’s why we continue to stand with our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters during Pride Month and every month here at the FBI. We need to be allies. We need to walk in each other’s shoes to try understand what it’s like to be gay, to be a person of color, to be transgender, or to be all or some combination of these things at the same time. Our work begins with us, here and in our individual organizations. It’s about cultivating work places that are culturally and ethnically diverse. We must continue to foster an environment where no one feels the pain of discrimination, an environment where employees are respected, and afforded every opportunity to thrive. We also must not limit our commitment to diversity and equality to one month out of the year. Director Comey said, “Why are we having this summit? We should been doing this every day.” We've got to renew that commitment every day in the words that we say and more importantly in the actions that we take. The only way we can truly be a family is to welcome everyone for who they are and the strength that they bring to our team.