Gerald R. Ford photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Thomas S. Kleppe as Secretary of the Interior.

October 17, 1975

Secretary-designate Kleppe, the Vice President, Mrs. Kleppe, Justice Stewart, distinguished Members of the Congress and the Administration, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

In the great State of North Dakota there is a town with the wonderfully self-confident name, and I quote--Cando. [Laughter]

Today it gives me great pleasure to honor a man from North Dakota who doesn't come from Cando, but he sure lives up to that name or that title in spirit. In government service he has proven beyond any doubt that he can do and actually has done and, I am certain, will continue to do an outstanding job in the new post as Secretary of Interior.

Of course, I speak with great emphasis on Tom Kleppe. Into his trust will be placed many of the vast, vast resources that have made this Nation great. Tom, I know you will faithfully serve the 214 million Americans whose natural resources are now pledged by you to protect. I am sure that your rural roots and your love of our country will be the basis of sound, constructive policy. I look at your background and see how much an individual American with initiative and good common sense can accomplish.

Tom was born in the small North Dakota farming community of Kintyre. Tom is the first native of his home State to serve in the Cabinet of the United States.

Tom dropped out of college to work in his father's grain elevator, became a bank president at 21, the youngest mayor in the history of the city of Bismarck, North Dakota, president of a manufacturing company in Bismarck, elected to the Congress twice--and I was honored to serve with him for 4 years--a young man who earned money at an early age as a rodeo rider. [Laughter]

He has always maintained a very active interest in sports. He is, .according to him, a top handball player and tennis player. [Laughter] He allegedly shoots golf in the low eighties, and I am told the history books record that he even made a hole-in-one on one occasion.

Tom, I know another golfer--and I won't mention any names--who swings on occasion a mean 9-iron and who is looking for a partner with all of your alleged prowess. [Laughter]

All I can say, Tom, is not only will I look forward to your advice and counsel on environment and our natural resources but if you have any thoughts, any constructive ones, on my backswing, I will be very grateful. [Laughter]

In Tom's 4½ years as Small Business Administrator, small businessmen received nearly $8 billion in loans to start or to expand their businesses and to help our economy. That figure represents more than one-half the loans in dollar amount that SBA has approved in its 22-year history.

As a result of SBA initiative, about $65 billion in contracts from the Federal Government went to small business during Tom's tenure as its Administrator. Small business now gets approximately one-third of all Federal governmental contracts.

Tom, I know you will bring to the Department of Interior the same dedicated professionalism that you brought to SBA. I have great confidence that you will meet your new responsibilities in a way that will benefit the Nation and all Americans.

One of your most important challenges will be to protect the environment of our public lands, the tremendous beauty which is one of our greatest natural heritages. At the same time, you must find a way to extract energy from those lands, energy that is critical to our economy.

You must assure the best possible Federal-State relationship as we develop the oil resources of our Outer Continental Shelf, the oil shale resources of the Rockies, and the coal resources throughout our Nation.

You must reconcile the national need for energy which makes possible the jobs which we must have if America is to continue progress with the demand for environmental quality. You must forever be mindful that the public lands under Federal stewardship belong to 'all Americans. Even when we grant certain privileges to one portion or another of our citizenry to use these public lands, they must never be used to benefit the few to the detriment of the many.

I know you will do a first-class job, as you always have, that you will bring dedication to this job that will benefit our entire country.

Now I am very pleased to ask Justice Potter Stewart to swear in our new Secretary of the Interior, Tom Kleppe.

Note: The President spoke at 11:38 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. Potter Stewart, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, administered the oath of office.

Secretary Kleppe's response to the President's remarks is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 11, p. 1182).

Gerald R. Ford, Remarks at the Swearing In of Thomas S. Kleppe as Secretary of the Interior. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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