United States Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson delivered the 2014 Dyson Distinguished Lecture Thursday at Pace Law School to a group of 50 or so teachers and administrators. The Wappinger’s Falls, New York native (whose birthday, by the way, falls on the day that ultimately led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security: September 11) was sworn in as Secretary last December.
Johnson addressed a classroom of law students and professors, hitting topics like the need to strike a balance between security and liberty, preparedness in the face of natural disasters, the need for immigration and deportation reform, the lingering threat of terrorism, and the importance of public service.
Johnson defended the creation of the Homeland Security department, formed under the Bush administration in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks with the goal of centralizing in one agency those Federal organizations relevant to defending the nation’s borders. “Homeland security is the most important function a government can give to its people,” he said. But in response to criticism that DHS incurs on Americans’ civil liberties in the name of national security, he said, “In the name of homeland security, it’s important we don’t sacrifice our values as Americans.”
Johnson was chosen by President Obama to succeed former Secretary Janet Napolitano after she resigned in September of last year. His tenure as Secretary follows a career in public and private law practice. Johnson was General Counsel of the Department of Defense from 2009 to 2012 and of the Air Force from 1998 to 2001. Between public appointments, Johnson practiced law privately at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP.