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Secretary of Energy Remarks at the Swearing In of James R. Schlesinger.

August 05, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, everybody. I've come before you this afternoon to consummate an effort that began last fall in discussing with Dr. James Schlesinger the subject that's been on our mind perhaps more than any other throughout my own administration: the concept of energy shortages and the attitude of American people, how we might minimize the inevitable consequences that result from an overuse of scarce supplies.

I had known Dr. Schlesinger just a few months. He came down to Plains to talk to me late last summer, after returning to our country from a trip to the Far East, including China. And I think it's accurate to say that he and I liked each other immediately and began to confer on many subjects concerning defense, atomic energy, foreign affairs, budget matters, and then, finally, the most important subject of all---energy.

He has been the one that the Congress and I and the American people have trusted. He's put together, with the help of an extremely able staff, working sacrificially, a comprehensive energy proposal that the Congress is now addressing in a very effective way.

And I think it's accurate to say that here at the midpoint of the year's work, past the midpoint, that the success we've already witnessed has been in large measure due to the intelligence and capability and the esteem which is exhibited by Dr. Schlesinger and those who know him.

Yesterday, the Department of Energy was created. And in an absolutely unprecedented fashion, in just a couple of hours, he was confirmed by the Senate committee under Senator Scoop Jackson, and then on the same day was confirmed as the Secretary of the Department of Energy.

This is the 12th Cabinet-level department, the first one created in the last 11 years. And it comes at a time when it's greatly needed.

I think it's important that these new proposals be pursued through the Congress, authorized by law, and implemented in the most enlightened and effective way.

I also think that the new Department needs to be formed rapidly and efficiently and effectively. I think it's important that the head of this Department have the trust of other Cabinet members, of the President, of the Members of Congress, local and State officials, and the people of our country.

And I have chosen a person who fills all those very profound and very important requirements: Dr. James Schlesinger. He's had many important positions to play in his own life, privately and in Government. I think this is the most important of all. And it's with a great deal of appreciation to him and confidence in him that I have chosen him to be the Secretary of Energy.

And now I'd like to ask the Attorney General to administer the oath of office. And I'd like to congratulate ahead of time the American people for having this fine man to head up this important effort, which can rally our Nation in the future in a spirit of unity and common commitment and common trust.

Dr. James Schlesinger.

[At this point, Attorney General Griffin B. Bell administered the oath of office.]

SECRETARY SCHLESINGER. Mr. President, I am grateful to you for the confidence that you have reposed in me in assigning to me the responsibility of being the first Secretary of Energy.

Public service is our highest calling, and I am delighted to serve you and, through you, the American people.

Mr. President, yesterday you referred to a search committee. I am delighted that that committee acted so expeditiously. [Laughter] Senator Jackson was moving so fast that I was afraid that your nomination might be approved before it reached the Hill. [Laughter]

I see Admiral Rickover is here. I have had the honor, Mr. President, of serving Admiral Rickover now in three jobs. [Laughter] If you look at the organization charts, you might come to some other and erroneous conclusion.

I see my secretary, Evelyn, is here. Sometime ago when we were leaving the Atomic Energy Commission, she said to me, "Thank the Lord we will never hear about the liquid metal fast breeder reactor again." [Laughter] That, Mr. President, was not one of her better predictions.

I also see the entire staff of the Energy Policy and Planning Group. Mr. President, these men and women managed to produce, in 90 days time, a comprehensive energy plan. They achieved this by going without sleep. This has been maliciously charged by the critics of the plan, and some of our supporters fear that it may be true. I think I can confirm, indeed, that it is true.

On a more serious note, Mr. President, the Department of Energy provides you with a coordinated instrument for implementing whatever policies you and the Congress agree upon with regard to the long-run energy problems of this country.

I should emphasize, Mr. President, that our energy problems are serious, but they do constitute a challenge, a challenge to which you have just referred--an opportunity, once again, for all of us to pull together in a spirit of national cohesion and, once again, to have that sense of common purpose and common destiny by which to guide our efforts.

It will call on all of us to face the facts of our and the world's energy problem with total objectivity. But if we face those facts and we deal with them with determination, we shall be able to solve our energy problems. It will require us to act with speed and with prudence and, at the same time, to act out of a spirit of confidence and hope and, occasionally, charity. And in that spirit of charity, let me urge, Mr. President, that we will permit the assembled guests to escape from this excess of solar energy. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 2 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Secretary of Energy Remarks at the Swearing In of James R. Schlesinger. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243813

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