President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder in 2013
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

A celebration Friday for outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder brought tears to President Obama's eyes during a performance by Aretha Franklin, who "literally" sang his praises, CNN reports.

"I think about all the young people out there who have seen you work and have been able to get just an innate sense, without knowing you personally, that you're a good man," Obama said at the event, which marked the unveiling of Holder's official portrait and was held at the Department of Justice, the news site reports. " And having good men in positions of power and authority, who are willing to fight for what's right, that's a rare thing. That's a powerful thing."

Holder, who is expected to be replaced by nominee Loretta Lynch, has come under fire mostly from Republicans for his role in high-profile political battles over areas including immigration, same-sex marriage and protecting voting rights. But the president expressed praise for Holder on those very issues, and he turned emotional as he discussed Holder's personal impact on Americans, especially through his work with the My Brother's Keeper initiative, CNN notes.

For his part, Holder thanked the president and those who helped him during his nearly six years at the U.S. Department of Justice. "I'm grateful to this great nation, who gave a black kid from East Elmhurst, Queens, New York City more support and opportunities than any individual could have hoped for," he said, according to the news outlet.

As the ceremony came to an end, Aretha Franklin made a surprise appearance and sang a rendition of "America the Beautiful" in tribute to Holder, which caused the president's eyes to well up.


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