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Remarks at the Swearing-in Ceremony for James A. Baker III as Secretary of State

January 27, 1989

The President. Well, if I could ask the Secretary of State and Mrs. Baker and Chief Justice to come forward, we'll get on with the program here.

[At this point, Secretary of State Baker was sworn in.]

Mr. Vice President, distinguished Members of the United States Senate and House, Mr. Speaker -- Mr. Chief Justice, thank you, sir, for doing the honors today.

This is a very special occasion for me because, as you all know, Jim and I have been friends for a long time, going back perhaps more years than either of us would care to admit -- long, really, before our public lives began. And we've served in government together, campaigned together, traveled a long way through some rough and tumble times. And it's well known that the new Secretary of State is my friend. I have great confidence in him. And judging from how he sailed through the confirmation process -- thank you, gentlemen -- the United States Senate shares that confidence.

And as Secretary of State, he will be my principal foreign policy adviser. As I pledged in my Inaugural Address a week ago, my Presidency will usher in the age of the offered hand, and that applies certainly to foreign policy. I've also spoken of a new engagement. Nowhere is the need for a new engagement greater than in foreign policy.

The postwar generation has come of age, and today we live in a distinctly different world than that which we were born into: a world that demands new strategies and new solutions. And today we see a process of change in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, in the Middle East. A changing situation creates new possibilities as well as dangers. In southern Africa and in Indochina, there is diplomatic progress. And in Central and South America, totalitarian forces still threaten to undermine the will of the people. We must keep democracy on the march. And we're faced with change and the potential for change all over the world. And it's up to us to guarantee that the United States remains an engaged power for positive change.

In another era, the Secretary of State's role was largely confined to matters of war and peace. Today's world is much more complex than that -- more dangerous, too. Today's Secretary of State must be prepared to work with our allies to solve such global threats as the international narcotics trade, terrorism, the degradation of the world's environment, and the economic distress of developing countries. And that's why I chose James Baker. He's savvy; he's sensitive; he's tough -- a rare combination, indeed. And so, Jim, you've got a big job ahead of you, leading; coming up with bold, new initiatives; helping all of us fulfill the President's special role in foreign policy. We will also try to restore bipartisanship to foreign policy. It will be a bipartisanship based on trust, open communication, and consistency of action.

This is a time for America to reach out and take the lead, not merely react. And this is a time for America to move forward confidently and cautiously, not retreat. As the freest and the fairest and the most powerful democracy on the face of the Earth, we must continue to shine as a beacon of liberty, beacon of justice, for all the people of the world.

And those of you who are here today -- Jim Baker's family, closest friends -- know something that many other people will soon learn for themselves: Jim Baker will be a great Secretary of State.

Jim, congratulations! The floor is yours.

Secretary Baker. Mr. President, Barbara, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished Members of the Congress, my friends -- most of whom are relatives -- [laughter] -- I am truly honored and privileged to stand before you today. Many of you have come a long distance to be here, and as you mentioned, Mr. President, you and I have come a long distance together. I hope to continue to merit your confidence. I know I will continue to enjoy our friendship. One other thing: I hope that in foreign policy we're going to make a better team than we oftentimes did on the tennis courts in Texas. [Laughter]

Ladies and gentlemen, the taking of an oath is always a solemn moment. Yet I cannot help but think that there will be even more solemn moments to follow, because it's been my experience for 8 years here now in Washington that after the swearing-in, sooner or later, comes the swearing at. [Laughter]

Mr. President, through your choice and the Senate's consent, I will occupy an office that dates from the infancy of our Republic. Over the last few weeks, I've learned a lot about the job. I find the more I learn about it the more humble I become. Yet mixed with that humility is a pride -- not in myself but in our great country.

One of his statutory duties of the Secretary of State is to be the custodian of the Great Seal of the United States. We're all pretty familiar with the great eagle holding the olive branches -- but also holding the arrows. There's a reverse side to that seal, however, that interests me. And on it is an unfinished pyramid. And on the bottom, a Latin inscription which means, "A new order of the ages." It's dated 1776. To me this expresses our forefathers' conviction that our country offers something new. Our Constitution, our democracy is a new order of human activity. And the unfinished pyramid is a symbol of strength, and it's a symbol of continuity.

America rests on the broadest possible base which, of course, is the contribution of every American. But the work of America -- to perfect our society, to strengthen and extend freedom -- is really never finished. So, as I stand here today, very grateful to you, Mr. President, I recognize that we are entering a new era of international relations. One that's filled with more than its share of promise, but perhaps more than its share of perils as well. I also recognize that our country is ever new in our capacity to meet the challenge and to advance the cause of freedom.

I enter this office secure in the knowledge that under your leadership, Mr. President, and with the support of the Congress and the support of the American people we can continue successfully what we began two centuries ago.

Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:02 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

George Bush, Remarks at the Swearing-in Ceremony for James A. Baker III as Secretary of State Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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