George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Swearing-In Ceremony for Dirk Kempthorne as Secretary of the Interior

June 07, 2006

Thank you all. Please be seated. Welcome to the White House. Laura and I are thrilled you are here to witness the swearing-in of Dirk Kempthorne as our Nation's 49th Secretary of the Interior.

We welcome Dirk's family, particularly his wife, Patricia, and his children, Heather and Jeff. Thank you all for being here. I'm really happy Dirk's dad, Jim, is with us. I sure appreciate you being here, Mr. Kempthorne. I want to thank all the other friends of the Kempthorne family and members of the family who have joined us here today.

I found it interesting that when Dirk and Patricia were married, they chose a wedding ceremony at sunrise high atop Idaho's Moscow Mountain. It's an interesting commitment to make, isn't it? [Laughter] And an interesting place to make the commitment. It shows a love of—Dirk's love for his wife and their mutual love for nature. And one of the reasons I picked Dirk Kempthorne is because of his love of the beautiful country that we are fortunate to call America. That's why I picked him.

I want to appreciate the Vice President joining us today. Mr. Vice President, welcome. Thank you for being here, sir. I want to thank Justice Scalia for joining us, to administer the oath of office.

Dirk, you must be given a lot of these, kind of, swearing-in ceremonies, and we generally don't have a man of such esteem join us in a situation like this. [Laughter]

I appreciate Lynn Scarlett, the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, joining us, as well as all those who work for the Secretary of the Interior. I want to thank members of my Cabinet for being here. Thank you all for coming. Appreciate you taking time out of your day to be here, and I know Dirk does as well. I appreciate Members of the United States Senate who join us, starting with the Senate President pro tem, Ted Stevens. Thank you, Senator, proud you're here—as well as the two Senators from Idaho, Larry Craig and Mike Crapo. Thank you both for joining us. We have the House majority whip with us, Roy Blunt. I see former colleagues of Dirk Kempthorne have joined us as well. Thank you all for coming.

We have the privilege of living in a land of unparalleled beauty. We've got vast mountain ranges and mighty rivers and open plains and spectacular coastlines. These open spaces are shared—are the shared heritage of everybody. They just don't belong to a few people; they belong to all of us. It's the job of the Secretary of the Interior to manage these natural resources in such a way that we can pass them on to future generations, in good shape. That's Dirk's job. There's no doubt in my mind he'll be able to do it well.

Dirk Kempthorne is uniquely qualified for this important position. He is the first Secretary of the Interior to serve as a Governor, a Senator, and a mayor. And each of these positions prepared Dirk well for his new responsibilities.

As Governor of Idaho, Dirk was responsible for managing Idaho's 30 State parks and recreational trails. He proved himself to be an outstanding steward of his State's open spaces. He launched a statewide initiative to fund improvements in the State's parks and public spaces. He created the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. He established the Governor's Office of Species Conservation. He's a true conservationist, with a track record to prove it.

As a United States Senator, Dirk chaired the Subcommittee on Drinking Water, Fisheries, and Wildlife, and built bipartisan support to enact comprehensive reforms to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

As a former mayor of Boise, Dirk understands that those who live closest to the land know how to manage it best. He understands that while people here in Washington may care deeply about the land, it's the people that's closest to the land that we're going to rely upon to manage those resources. We're going to work closely with local and State leaders to ensure our natural resources are managed wisely.

Dirk takes up his new responsibilities at an important time in our Nation's history, and he follows an outstanding Secretary of the Interior in Gale Norton. Gale was instrumental in establishing the Healthy Forests Initiative to safeguard our forests and woodlands against fire damage. And thanks to her leadership, our administration has reduced the danger of fires by treating or removing hazardous fields from 11 million acres of Federal land so far. Gale also led the effort in Washington to improve our national parks and reduce the park maintenance backlog that we found when we came into office. Dirk is going to continue focusing on our national parks.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated our Nation's gulf coast, Gale helped lead the effort to restore offshore energy production. She worked tirelessly to prevent a massive energy disruption that could have crippled our economy. America is a better place because of Gale Norton's leadership.

Dirk Kempthorne is going to build upon the strong foundation left by Gale Norton. He's going to continue my administration's effort to conserve our land and water and air resources. He's going to work to improve our national parks. He's going to preserve our Nation's historic and cultural sites. He'll carry forward our approach of cooperative conservation by encouraging conservation on both public and private lands in close collaboration with local communities. As we work to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, he will make sure that any exploration on Federal lands and in Federal waters is done in an environmentally sensitive way. As the Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne will make certain that our Nation's natural spaces are cleaner and safer and more productive.

I want to thank Dirk for agreeing to serve our country again. I want to thank his family for supporting him. And now it's my honor to witness the swearing-in of Dirk Kempthorne.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Justice Antonin Scalia and Secretary Kempthorne.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Swearing-In Ceremony for Dirk Kempthorne as Secretary of the Interior Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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