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Remarks at the Swearing In of Elliot L. Richardson as Attorney General.

May 25, 1973

Ladies and gentlemen:

As you know, we are gathered here today for the purpose of swearing in Elliot Richardson as the Attorney General of the United States.

I was talking to the Chief Justice before the ceremony, and he was reminding me of the fact that it was just 4 years and 4 days ago that in this room I nominated him as the Chief Justice of the United States. And in a totally nonpartisan way, I believe we should pay our respect to the Chief Justice for those 4 years that he has served.

There is very little I can say about Elliot Richardson to this distinguished assemblage, because those who are not members of the official family are members of his family, and I am sure that all of them think just as highly of him as I do and as the Senate indicated in its overwhelming vote of approval.

I would say first that no man has held the office of Attorney General who comes with better qualifications, from a legal standpoint, and also with qualifications in the whole area of the government, which is very important to the chief law enforcement officer of this country.

In the whole area of government, for example, Elliot Richardson has served-and I first met him on those occasions-in the Eisenhower Administration as Under Secretary of HEW. In this Administration he has been the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, the Secretary of Defense, and now will be the Attorney General. He has also been Under Secretary of State, and I will announce today, incidentally, that due to the fact that he has these unusual qualifications, of having been an Under Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, that I have invited him to be a member of the National Security Council so that he can give us the benefit of his judgment on the critical national security issues involving foreign policy where he has such great expertise and experience.

Now, in the law enforcement field, just to remind some of you that may have forgotten how much he has done, President Eisenhower appointed him to be a U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts. He made a distinguished record in a fight against organized crime, so distinguished, as a matter of fact, that he went on to elective victories in the State of Massachusetts. And in that case, he was elected both to the office of lieutenant governor and also to the office of attorney general of his State.

As a matter of fact, I was just thinking of his background and how distinguished it is, the years that he has spent in political and public life, and I was thinking of my own, and I was thinking of how similar it was in some ways and how different in others. And it is different, very different in one way. He has been able to do something that I have never been able to do. He has carried Massachusetts twice.

But not simply because of that political success and not simply because of his broad experience in government and his experience in the law, with his magnificent record at the Harvard Law School and then as a law clerk to two of the great judges of the Court, but because of the man he is, of his character, I think he will be one of the finest men, one of the ablest men ever to hold the office of Attorney General of the United States.

I am very proud to present him. And the Chief Justice will now administer the oath.

[At this point, Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger administered the oath of office. The President then resumed speaking.]

The Attorney General has not been able to make any public statements about his new position until the Senate in its wisdom finally approved him or gave its advice and consent to the President for his approval in nomination.

But after all of those days of silence, except before a Senate committee, I think we would all like to have a few words from the Attorney General of the United States.

[At this point, Attorney General Richardson responded to the President's remarks. The President then resumed speaking.]

The Attorney General and Mrs. Richardson would like to meet all of you who do not have any great matters pending before the courts at the moment or to discuss with the Attorney General, in the State Dining Room, and there will be coffee served. And while most of you have known him before, you have not known him as the Attorney General of the United States, and we are proud to have him as our guest in that capacity today.

Note: The President spoke at 12: 35 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Attorney General Richardson responded to the President's remarks as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, Mr. Chief Justice Burger, Mrs. Burger, my Cabinet colleagues, Members of the Senate and of the House, friends from Massachusetts, from the Department of State, from the Department of HEW, from the Department of Defense, from the Department of Justice, friends:

First, Mr. President, I would like to say that I shall forever be grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to serve in the Department of Defense. It was a brief chapter, to be sure, and yet a memorable one. No one who has had the privilege of being part of that Department can ever forget the sense of participation with patriotic and dedicated people who have devoted their lives to concerns greater than themselves.

You spoke a moment ago, Mr. President, of the wisdom of the Senate. I am .grateful to that wisdom for having seen to it that I would still be Secretary of Defense on that unforgettable evening here at the White House last night, when the prisoners of war and their wives were here. That was a very proud moment for me, simply to realize that I was a part of the defense establishment of the United States and that these were men who belonged to it. Certainly no one who has seen them and heard them, least of all no one who has heard them express their feeling for you, can ever forget it.

It is going to be confusing for a little while, because I don't think it has been very often that a man has left the Department of Defense to acquire the title of General. The hardest thing, of course, about transitions from job to job is the severance of relations, or at least their interruption, and the good thing about these experiences has always been that there has been an opportunity to come to know and to develop associations with people who are devoting themselves to the public interest and who are decent, honorable, capable people, whose greatest rewards and satisfactions lie in the awareness that their lives are devoted to the public interest.

I have been more privileged than most to have seen such individuals in many government settings.

So, while one of the worst things about a transition is the interruption of relations, one of the best is the opportunity to develop new ones. I look forward to the associations that I shall be developing with the dedicated career professionals of the Department of Justice.

As a lawyer, I look forward also to renewing my own participation in a legal job in a department whose concern is with the law and with the administration of justice. The first concern of the administration of justice must, of course, be the individual. The second concern is the truth. The first of these demands fairness. The second demands fearlessness. I shall do my utmost to be faithful to both.

This is a time, of course, when the institutions of our government are under stress, and yet, I would suggest to you, and I know you will agree with me, that this is not because their structure is not sound. It is sound, and it is strong, and it will endure.

If there are flaws, they are in ourselves, and our task must be one therefore not of redesign, but of renewal, of reaffirmation--reaffirmation especially of those standards for ourselves in which all of us believe.

I am grateful, Mr. President, for the charge you have given me to take part in that task of renewal and reaffirmation. Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Swearing In of Elliot L. Richardson as Attorney General. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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