Joe Biden

Remarks by the Vice President at the Swearing-in of United States Representative Ron Kirk

March 20, 2009

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hey, folks, how are you? In the tradition I come from, you go to the power center immediately --that's mom. (Laughter.) Congratulations, Mom, and thank you. Please all sit down -- please all sit down. Thank you so much for being here.

I'm flattered you're all here. And let me start off by saying to you as we gather here today to swear in a new leader, it's worth considering just how important, and what a significant part the mission of the U.S. Trade Representative is in our future. And it's a big deal.

Ron is going to have the responsibility of working toward opening markets throughout the world to create new opportunities and higher living standards for our families, our farmers, our manufacturers, our workers, our consumers, our businesses. That old joke they used to tell about Willie Sutton. They said, "Why do you rob banks?" He said, "Because that's where the money is." Why do we need trade? That's where the customers are.

We start off with a premise: We have the most talented workers in the world, we have the most talented entrepreneurs in the world, and we need access for those products. And so if we do this right, we should have --- the mission for everyone in this administration is the same as Ron's, and that is: How do we raise the standard of living for middle class people?

Everyone -- everyone is seeking to lift us out of these difficult times in this administration and in the Congress. And it's not just to lift us out, but it's to send us all on our way to a much brighter future. This administration is about improving lives everywhere, plain and simple. And the U.S. Trade Representative, that's pretty much his job description in a nutshell, improving the lives everywhere.

In Ron Kirk, we have -- we found a leader who has shown time and again that he is the man for this job. He's a man who has defied the odds, and continues to defy the odds; a man who can take very complex problems and find necessary, practical solutions everybody understands; a man who can make a real difference in the lives of American families, and create real opportunities for those who need it most.

Ron has blazed a trail everywhere he's gone. He's the first African American mayor in Dallas. He's the first African American to hold this critical position. And he's the first guy who headed up -- was the grand marshal of an Irish event in Dallas where he got the mayor of Cork and the mayor of Belfast to sit down together. I mean, that warrants a Nobel Prize all by itself. (Laughter.) So, Ron, I'm now convinced you can do anything. As an Irishman, that says a lot to me.

And now he has to blaze a trail beyond our borders. He has to be -- come up with innovative ways for our trade policies to inspire a new environment of basic fairness -- basic fairness in our trade relationships, and to generate some -- which is going to be one of the cores of whether or not we actually have widespread prosperity here in the United States. And he's got the ideas I think can help make this happen.

I understand that there is not a trade-off, and I think he understands, there's not a trade-off made between supporting free and fair trade and fighting for American workers. Not only can we, we have to, do both. We have to do both. He understands that trade policy is more than just a series of agreements with other countries. It means new social accountability where American influence can shape global trends, where fairness becomes the guiding principle everywhere.

So, ladies and gentlemen, quite simply, trade policy is a vital tool -- a vital tool in promoting American interest and ideas around the world; a vital tool in the pursuit of a better life for every American -- and God willing, no good agreement is a good agreement unless both parties prosper -- and hopefully it is good for the rest of the world, as well.

Ron will be engaged in that pursuit day in and day out. Any of you who know him know he's like a bulldog, he doesn't let anything go. He doesn't let it go. You give him a mission, he accomplishes it. Was he like that when he was a kid, Mom? All right, okay. (Laughter.) Well, he has a multiple role here. He's got to be an enforcer; he's got to be a collaborator; he's got to be a negotiator. But most of all, he has to be a leader. And that's what has been the hallmark of his entire career.

He's going to help create a more stable and sustainable, and I think, vibrant American economy as a consequence of his efforts. Other than that, his job is a piece of cake, Mom. (Laughter.) There's not much else he has to do.

Really, though, look, in these tough times with economies everywhere, everywhere in the world struggling -- there's not one that's not -- nations around the globe are looking for new ideas, looking for American leadership. With everyone looking for a reason to be hopeful, the United States of America is poised to stand up and once again become the leader the world needs.

And I know that the President knows -- the President knows that Ron Kirk will be the one that helps light the way for us on trade issues. So, Mr. U.S. Trade Representative, I'm going to ask you to come forward and take the oath of office before I give you the -- give you the podium.

[The oath of office is administered.]

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President at the Swearing-in of United States Representative Ron Kirk Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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