Jimmy Carter photo

Department of Education Remarks at the Swearing In of Shirley Hufstedler as Secretary.

December 06, 1979

THE PRESIDENT. This is a good day for our Nation. Many people look around us in this great country, and we see the notable achievements that have benefited our own lives in so many varied ways that we tend to give credit to diverse reasons for the great achievements of America: that we've started out in a land that was unexplored, without knowing what our natural resources were, with the most heterogeneous population, I guess, of any nation on Earth widely diverse motivations and interests and backgrounds, religions, beliefs, languages, great challenges, all too frequent wars, racial problems. And still, in spite of all those obstacles, our Nation has been the greatest of all.

We've overcome obstacles, and we've answered questions, and we've solved problems, and we've made progress, because our people have always believed in good education. It's let us transcend potential language barriers and the barriers of communication. It's let us explore the frontiers of knowledge to learn about the world around us, to stretch our hearts and minds to people throughout the world, and to bind ourselves together in a spirit of unity of purpose and understanding.

We still have a long way to go in providing a quality education for all American people. I promised you in my own campaign more than 3 years ago, that if I was elected President that one of my goals would be to establish a separate Department of Education, to give it a high profile in Government, to let it have a single purpose which would focus the attention of the Nation on unmet needs and potential ways to resolve and to meet those needs.

At the same time, a department must encompass a wide gamut of opportunities for learning. And as I've sought around the last 3 or 4 months for a person to be the first Secretary of Education in our Nation, I was very grateful to be able to induce Judge Shirley Hufstedler to take over this job. She's a person who has a wide range of interests herself. She's a person of character. She is strong. She has a breadth of experience and background in education and scholarship that will stand her in good stead in this difficult achievement.

She has demonstrated a feeling of compassion for those who need help in our society, and she has sound and good judgment. She's interested in colonial Williamsburg. She's interested in jet propulsion. She's interested in good symphony orchestras. She's interested in teaching ethics to young people. She's interested in a fine quality of justice in the court system of our country. She believes in excellence, and she believes in the value of individual human beings, and she sees education as a means of binding all these varied interests, purposes, and opportunities together.

I've talked to Shirley about this opportunity and the fact that the classroom is just one place among many where Americans can constantly expand their educational opportunities—also, of course, in the museums, in the concert halls, through the public media, in the workplace, in libraries, and in the encounters among Americans themselves.

We have tried to improve education in our Nation from the Federal level, recognizing that the encroachment in the decisionmaking process for the management of schools, the establishment of curriculum, the choosing of persons to teach and to administer ought to be entirely a local and a State responsibility. But the Federal Government has a role to play. We've had a greater increase in Federal aid to the educational system than any other administration ever, in the period of 3 years that I've been in office. That's just part of the problem and the opportunity.

I'm very glad now to introduce to you Judge Shirley Hufstedler, who will be the first Secretary of Education. She started out herself in the career as a secretary. She then taught part-time, typing. She taught shorthand. She taught English. She taught music. And now, she is becoming a secretary once again. [Laughter] Having completed that full circle, I know she'll be eager to address you now.

Judge Shirley Hufstedler.

JUDGE HUFSTEDLER. Mr. President, Mr. Chief Justice, Mrs. Carter, members of my dear beloved extended family, colleagues, friends of education:

It is, of course, for me, a glorious day. It is for education an event of great visibility in the creation of the Department of Education. But the beginnings of today involve many people and many things, but most of all it began with an idea, an idea by which the values of the United States and the meaning of education for every person could be demonstrated to the country and to the world through the creation of an equal partnership at the Cabinet level for the Department.

Ideas, like children, can never reach their full potential without faith, without love, without determination, and without nurturing. This Department could not have happened and that idea could not be well begun unless the administration created a climate in which that nourishment could occur.

But even with the nurturing strength of the administration for education, the idea could not have grown this far but for the thoughtful cooperation of myriads of people in this country—on the Hill, in the communities, among scholars, among leaders—to make it happen. This Department can never nourish the idea of education unless those who were against the idea and those who were for it will come together in a spirit of cooperation to make all these ideas come true.

I would hope, Mr. President, that we can see new coalitions, new hope, new faith, new charity, and new dedication to the concept of education. In the words of George Washington, "Let us raise a standard." And the standard, if you please, that I would like each of you—and all the people who cannot be here, but who are represented by each of you— to raise the standard to say, "Let this not simply be a country with freedom and justice; let us be a country of freedom, justice, and quality education for all."

Note: The President spoke at 3 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger administered the oath of office to Judge Hufstedler following her remarks.

Jimmy Carter, Department of Education Remarks at the Swearing In of Shirley Hufstedler as Secretary. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/247989

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives