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Remarks at the Swearing-In Ceremony for Lynn M. Martin as Secretary of Labor

February 22, 1991

The President. Thank you very much for that warm welcome. And Julia, thank you for the lovely prayer and invocation. I was privileged, as I went into the inevitable holding posture out here, to hear the Blacks in Government Gospel Choir. And thank you for adding to the majesty and wonder of this moment.

And it is really an honor to greet all of you today. A thousand apologies for keeping you waiting here, setting this program back. But as you know, we had an important announcement regarding the situation in the Gulf, and I simply could not delay it.

But here I am and delighted to be here. Let me just say how pleased I am to see so many members of our Cabinet here. And if it would not be remiss, I'd like them to stand and just let you know how many have come to pay attention and genuflect before Lynn Martin. That's somewhat incomplete because our Chief of Staff is here and the new Secretary of Education, about to be, and Secretary of Agriculture, about to be also. So now you three stand up, and we'll get this show on the road here.

It's getting to be a cabal out there with Skinner, Madigan, and now one more Illinoisan in this Cabinet. You're going to have to -- -- [applause]

And I also want to salute the Members of Congress that are here with us today, coming, as I am, to pay our respects to our new Secretary of Labor.

I know that Secretary Dole wanted to be here; I don't think she made it. In marking this moment of transition, let's just begin by offering our congratulations to her for 25 years of exceptional service. And our best wishes as she tackles this new and terribly important task there as president of the American Red Cross.

We're here today to salute and introduce the new Secretary of Labor. And we're particularly grateful at this wonderful turnout from the Department and from all those in the labor movement and others who are here. It is for me a distinct, and I want to make it quite personal, a personal pleasure to welcome to Washington the family and friends of this exceptional woman.

The 16th District of Illinois has great historical significance, as I now see another dignitary, the former Governor, Jim Thompson, from Illinois, knows very well, indeed. It was the site of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, home of President Ulysses S. Grant, and the birthplace of Ronald Reagan. And it is the district served for 10 years by a woman who is one of the great leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives and a longtime friend. And that is your, my, our new Secretary of Labor, Lynn Martin.

But Barbara and I have been at her side at her home and in the streets and neighborhoods of Rockford. And you should see -- and you'll sense it here, you that work at Labor -- you should see the love and affection the people who know her best feel for her. And with good cause. She first became involved in politics because as a mother and as a teacher, she knew America's children deserved better -- better schools, better choices, better future. And she's been working to bring about these improvements all her life.

And that's why during my own inauguration week, I spoke to a group of 10,000 young people from all across the Nation and urged them to make this able woman their role model. I said, watch her leadership in the United States Congress. She's tough, she's strong, and she exemplifies the very best principles of public service.

Lynn, this is a good Department with decent and caring people here, and a very important mission. And I've been here several times, even visited with the kids in the childcare center right down the hall, and introduced Bill Brock here back in 1985 and Elizabeth Dole in 1989. And I know what you do here and all over the country out of your regional offices. I know how they function. And I just wanted to assure you that I know that you all are engaged in very important work for this country. That includes protecting America's kids against exploitation, helping workers retrain and build skills for the future, safeguarding employees against health and safety hazards, and ensuring the integrity of the workers' pensions.

I know Lynn is also committed to reaching out to America's workers. As she told the Senate recently -- here's the way she put it: ". . . committed to touching their lives before, during, and after their years in the labor force." And now, those are the thoughts of a very dedicated and caring woman. Matched by her exceptional talents, they promise that Secretary Martin will help make the American workplace safer, healthier, and more secure, and serve this Department and the country as a powerful force for good.

A few months ago, I listened as Lynn told an Illinois gathering about how almost 30 years ago she held her little girl, Julia -- who we just heard deliver this beautiful prayer -- held her up above the crowd as President John F. Kennedy drove by. And Lynn said, "If only once in her life, I wanted her to be able to say she'd seen the President of the United States." [Laughter] Well, today that little girl is the same fine young woman we see, or saw, doing this superb job up here, and that young mother is America's newest Secretary of Labor. So, time marches on.

Just the other day Lynn remarked that the dream is alive in places you least expect to find it. And that's so true. Lynn Martin is the American dream, and she inspires it in others. And I look forward to working with her as she works with the others in our Cabinet, particularly with our new Secretary of Education, as they undertake common goals that will benefit everybody in this country.

So, Madam Secretary, I'm glad it worked out that I got over here, albeit a few minutes late. Congratulations to you. Good luck. And now I would invite your distinguished husband, a man who is a member of the U.S. Federal bench, District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber, with the assistance of your dad here, to administer the oath of office. And Barbara Bush sends you her love and her prayers. She is out in Phoenix, but I just wish she were here to take the full pleasure of this moment, as I plan to do.

Now, congratulations, and let's get on with the show.

[At this point, Secretary Martin was sworn in.]

Secretary Martin. Thank you all. It's difficult to say it in the correct order. Mr. President, you have my loyalties not only because of the job you have but because of the example you set. You have my commitment, as do the people of the Department of Labor and as do the working men and women of America, to do the best job I know how, because that is the job of labor, to work as well as we know how.

And again, Mr. President, you've set that example. You have my friendship because you're a doggone good friend, and I'm sure glad you're mine. [Laughter]

I must say to my friends -- and for those of us in the audience who've been and are politicians in the best, wonderful sense of the word, from the word-base of "people," the definition of friends are those who call you the morning after a loss and the next day after a loss. And that doesn't seem to bother them at all. To my friends who are here, thank you for calling the next day after. [Laughter] And although we are fighting over the rights to this joke, thank you, Paul Simon, without whose help I would not be here today. [Laughter]

And this isn't a last -- and it's not a long speech -- but to my family. My father is 88 or 87 or 89 -- [laughter]. And if you think I'm going to try to figure out which one, you will understand that that's going to be impossible. When I was growing up and working, as my mother worked and as my father worked, to save money for college, he didn't know there were things I couldn't do, so he told me I could do anything. That's what we have to tell all of our children because they can, they can.

And to my husband, thank you very much for swearing me in. [Laughter] Protocol now says that I get to walk in front of him. [Laughter] But he says a Federal judge has a lifetime term, and that's more important. [Laughter] And to the rest of the family, sons and daughters and new baby, wide awake at his grandmother's speech, thank you for being all that you are. You mean a great deal to me.

And now to all of you. The President of the United States came after an extraordinarily important announcement about the strength and desire of this Nation. It would have been very easy for him to say, "I'm busy." But instead, he came -- and it wasn't for me. It was to give that joint message: that it's important, as we all know, what we are doing everywhere in the globe. This President also cares, as does this Cabinet and everyone here, about what's happening at home. And he wants to make sure and has charged me to do so, and I will follow that charge: to make sure the Department of Labor represents the men and women who work for this country here and abroad, who want and deserve the best, and who ask for little but opportunity to make sure they continue that tradition which says there is nothing better than the quality of the men and women of America. If I can match that, I can rightfully be called their Secretary of Labor.

So, for you, Mr. President, to my family, to my friends, to my soon-to-be colleagues in the Cabinet, I make that commitment, not because I'm smarter or better but because when the goal is so great, one must rise to it.

Thank you for being with me today.

Note: The President spoke at 11:07 a.m. in the Great Hall at the Department of Labor. In his remarks, he referred to Julia Martin, Secretary Martin's daughter; John H. Sununu, Chief of Staff to the President; Lamar Alexander, Secretary-designate of Education; Edward R. Madigan, Secretary-designate of Agriculture; Secretary of Transportation Samuel K. Skinner; Elizabeth Dole and William E. Brock, former Secretaries of Labor; James R. Thompson, Jr., former Governor of Illinois; Harry D. Leinenweber, Secretary Martin's husband; and Lawrence Morley, her father. Secretary Martin referred to Senator Paul Simon, who successfully defended his seat against the Secretary in the 1990 election.

George Bush, Remarks at the Swearing-In Ceremony for Lynn M. Martin as Secretary of Labor Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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