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The President-Elect's News Conference Announcing the Nomination of Ann Veneman as Secretary of Agriculture, Mel Martinez as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Donald Evans as Secretary of Commerce

December 20, 2000

BUSH: Today I have the opportunity to name three outstanding Americans to three very important Cabinet positions.

When I campaigned in Iowa, I told many of the folks involved in the agricultural community there that I would name a secretary of agriculture who understood the importance of agriculture in the larger scheme of things for America, that agriculture not only is an incredibly important part of our economy, agriculture is an important part of our international policy as well, that agriculture represents an incredibly important way of life, that the values of the farm are ingrained in the American soul.

And I found the right person who shares that philosophy. Ann Veneman has been in government before.

She was deputy secretary at the Agricultural Department, so she has experience in that office in Washington. She was also the secretary of California's Department of Food and Agriculture. She was the first woman to hold that post, and now she'll be the first woman to hold the post at the USDA.

She's an accomplished attorney, she's bright, she's capable and she'll do an outstanding job.

I also have picked a secretary for Housing and Human Development, Mel Martinez from the state of Florida. Mel is the executive of Orange County, which is a sizable county in central Florida, and he's done a really good job. He's an administrator. He's a good executive. He also is a good lawyer. In spite of that, I named him to the position.

He's got a wonderful story. He was a refugee, as a young boy, from Cuba. He understands American values; he's grown to appreciate them. And there's no greater American value than owning something; owning your own home and having the opportunity to do so. Mel is the perfect pick to run this important department, and I'm honored that he would agree to serve.

And finally, I'm going to name a new--obviously, name a new one--but I'm naming a secretary of commerce named Don Evans. Evans has been my life-long friend. He has been the chairman of my campaign. He has been a valuable adviser. He is a free enterpriser. He understands free trade. And he'll do a fabulous job as the secretary of commerce.

I will continue to name members of my Cabinet as this week progresses. Will do so between the holidays, Christmas and the New Year's, as well.

Today I've named three outstanding Americans. I would like all three to have a few comments to you, starting with the secretary-designee of the Department of Agriculture, Ann Veneman.

VENEMAN: Thank you very much.

Mr. President-elect, I am honored and humbled to be asked to join your administration and to serve with you and your highly qualified team.

It says a good deal about your commitment to agriculture that one of your first appointments is that of secretary of agriculture.

Agriculture is part of the fabric that makes America great. Our farmers feed and clothe not only the people in this country but people around the world. And it's important that we work together to expand markets for our food and fiber both at home and abroad.

President-elect Bush, like you, I want to find common ground and promote common sense. And I want to promote policies that will help all of our farmers reap a bountiful harvest for years to come.

Thank you again for placing your confidence in me. Thanks very much.

BUSH: Good job.


MARTINEZ: Thank you, Mr. President-elect.

In my city eight years ago, as a 15-year-old refugee, I arrived on the shores of America. And I had no family. I was alone. I did not speak the language.

I had only a dream to live in freedom. And after living for four years with wonderful people in foster homes where I learned the goodness of America and its people, I was reunited with my family here in freedom.

Today, that immigrant, that refugee, that young man looking for freedom is standing before you, receiving the nomination of the next president to serve in his Cabinet.

And, Mr. President-elect, I am proud to receive your nomination and I accept it.

Today, for me, is a fulfillment of the promise of America; the promise that regardless where you come from, what language you speak, the color of your skin, or your economic circumstances, if you share the dream of a brighter tomorrow and you're willing to pursue it with respect for others and an abiding faith in God, all things are possible.

As secretary of housing and urban development, I will continue to carry that dream of freedom with me. After all, the dream of freedom is the American dream.

President-elect Bush, as you know, for too long, too many Americans have been left out of the American dream. And as you said last spring, home ownership lies at the very heart of the American dream. I agree with you. And I will work hard to ensure that every American has every opportunity to have affordable housing.

This is a vital element of compassionate conservatism.

I know you will help low-income Americans achieve the full promise of America. After all, that is the American dream.

It is my blessing that the dream has come true for me, and now it is my responsibility to help it come true for others.

Thank you.

EVANS: Let me begin by saying thank you to an old friend who's offered me a new challenge.

Mr. President-elect, I'm both honored and I'm humbled. I proudly accept this challenge, and if confirmed will humbly dedicate my best efforts to uphold your high standards.

At this moment I'd also like to give thanks to my family, who has supported me through the years and given me advice. In fact, I got advice from my wife this afternoon before coming here, telling me to remember where I came from, and I will.

Yes, I am ready to serve this great nation. And since our founding, we have been a nation of free men and free markets. You see it everywhere in America from the corner merchants in Washington, D.C., to the oil fields of west Texas. Our business in America is truly business, and as a result, our economy is the envy of the world.

But as President-elect Bush has suggested, the delights of today tell us little about tomorrow. Now is no time for small plans or shrinking ambitions.

Governing, like business, is about setting a course, setting priorities, setting goals and objectives and making the right choices for the right reasons. And if I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed by the Senate, the road the Department of Commerce will travel is clear: The promotion of free enterprise, first in America and then abroad, will be our first priority; free flow of capital; free and open competition.

And we will strive to be an advocate for U.S. businesses first in America and also those wading into the waters of the global marketplace.

In short, we will endeavor to keep the genius of the American free enterprise system strong and dynamic from sea to shining sea and around the world.

I know there are many more responsibilities of the Department of Commerce, and we will be good shepherds and stewards of those responsibilities. But first and foremost, we will be thinking about the great free enterprise system of America.

It is an exciting challenge. And after almost 25 years in the energy industry, the chance to bring the experience of the private sector to the exercise of public service is a welcomed one.

So, Mr. President-elect, I stand before you ready, sustained by my faith, humbled by this opportunity and prepared to serve.

Thank you very much and God bless you.

BUSH: Thank you all.

George W. Bush, The President-Elect's News Conference Announcing the Nomination of Ann Veneman as Secretary of Agriculture, Mel Martinez as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Donald Evans as Secretary of Commerce Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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