Gerald R. Ford photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of David Mathews as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

August 08, 1975

Thank you very much, Cap. Secretary-designate, Members of Congress, Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished guests, including, as I understand it, three former Secretaries of HEW--Wilbur Cohen, John Gardner, and Arthur Flemming-ladies and gentlemen:

Cap, I am very grateful for your more than generous and very kind introduction. Now that you are leaving, Cap, I would like to take just a moment to tell you and to tell all the people here what I really think of you. [Laughter] I was hoping the day would never come when I had to tell you this. But since you insisted on leaving, you asked for it.

Cap, you are terrific. Those of us who have known you for a long time know that in each of the important positions that you have held in the Federal Government-Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Director of OMB, Secretary of HEW--I think you have demonstrated the commitment, the talent, the tireless hard work, and a very deep sense of patriotism that represents the very highest order of public service. And we thank you very, very much.

With your retirement from public life, we are losing, as I see it, a leader of uncommon ability. You have earned the respect, admiration of your colleagues and your country, and we in Government will miss you, Cap, and this city will certainly and surely miss your lovely wife, Jane. Betty and I, all the people assembled here, and so many more throughout the country join in wishing you both a very happy and a very successful return to the private life in your beautiful State of California. Having said that, I want to add a postscript. You have been tremendously helpful to me in a very tough year, and for that I am most grateful.

But I have come here primarily to swear in David Mathews as the new Secretary of HEW.

In Sunday's Washington Post, I read an article about David Mathews, and in this one piece alone he was described as innovative, captivating, exceptional, persuasive, gifted, and brilliant, and a man of Presidential stature. [Laughter]

Nevertheless--[laughter]--I have still come here today to swear David Mathews in as the new Secretary of HEW.

In the past, many Cabinet members have come to the White House for ceremonies similar to this. But I feel very strongly it is important for a President to see as much as he can of the people he serves and of the workers in Government agencies who serve the people. And that is one of the reasons I am here today.

Actually, it is my second visit here as President. I was here nearly a year ago-less than 2 weeks after I was sworn in--to sign the Education Amendments of 1974, in keeping with my personal philosophy favoring appropriate Federal assistance to education.

As Secretary of HEW, David Mathews will be filling a most important job and a big pair of shoes. His swearing in will add another first-class officer to a Cabinet of first-class men and women.

He moves into a big job, one of the most important in Government. HEW will spend an estimated $150 billion in the fiscal year and through the transitional quarter.

It has a staff of more than 128,000 men and women. The decisions and actions of this vital department of our Government affect the lives of every man, woman, and child in the United States. HEW has a major influence on the education Americans receive, on their health care, and on the entire range of social services.

I consider David Mathews the right person for this very important job. He is young, but is an accomplished thinker and leader, a man who understands both concepts and action, ideas and implementation.

Since 1969 he has served as an outstanding president of the University of Alabama, one of our Nation's great State universities. And at the same time, he has been an effective writer and leader in a wide range of civic activities.

Dr. Mathews brings to this new mission the strength of youth, a sense of purpose, the skills of a scholar, and the trusted record of a successful leader and administrator. That is an impressive inventory by any standard.

I am confident that his achievements will speak for themselves in the months and years ahead. I look forward to working closely with Dr. Mathews, as I have with my good friend, Cap Weinberger, to whom we all wish the very best.

I am sure all of you join with me in wishing David Mathews the very best as he assumes his heavy, new responsibilities as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:24 p.m. in the auditorium of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the United States, administered the oath of office.

Secretary Mathews' response to the President's remarks is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 1 I, p. 847).

Gerald R. Ford, Remarks at the Swearing In of David Mathews as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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