Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Walter J. Hickel as Secretary of the Interior.

January 24, 1969

Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, all of our distinguished guests this morning:

This is an historic moment in the history not only of this administration, its early history, but also in the history of the country.

For the first time a member of the Cabinet comes from the largest State of the Union and one of the newest States, the State of Alaska.

It is also of historical note to mention that this is somewhat of a precedent, at least for two administrations, because he succeeds Secretary Udall who came from the 48th State to be admitted, the State of Arizona in 1912, and Alaska, of course, was the 49th.

In presenting the Secretary to the Chief Justice for his oath, I would also like to be permitted just another remark with regard to his presence here.

It will be noted that he is alone insofar as his taking the oath. But all of his colleagues are here with him and the distinguished Members of the Senate and House leadership and particularly the Members of the Senate and House Interior Committees are here.

I am sure that enough editorial note has been taken of the fact that his confirmation has taken a little longer than some of the other members of the Cabinet. If I may paraphrase him, however, that does not concern us. We are not interested in confirmation for confirmation's sake.

I should also point out that he takes an office which, throughout the history of this country, has been somewhat controversial. We all recall some of the great Secretaries of the Interior.

I recall particularly--and some of the older members of the press as well as some of the older people in political life will remember--Secretary Ickes.1 He felt that he had a number of responsibilities, not only to handle his office, which he did with some controversy and considerable distinction, but also to keep the press in line. He once referred to columnists as Public Enemies No. 1. Secretary Hickel will never do that, I am sure.

1Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior 1933-1946.

He also considered it his responsibility to keep the President humble. Secretary Ickes was the one who once said that the President is not a descendant of a sun goddess. And I am sure that Secretary Hickel will assume that great responsibility to see that this President also remains humble.

But I should point out, too, that he already has rendered service far beyond the call of duty. In the first 4 days of this administration he, rather than I, has been the subject of the Herblock cartoons. I am grateful for that.

So if I may present him now with the Biblical scripture, "The last shall be first," as far as this administration is concerned. Secretary Hickel.

Note: The President spoke at 10 a.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Swearing In of Walter J. Hickel as Secretary of the Interior. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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