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 Home > News & Policies > December 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 3, 2004

President Nominates Bernard Kerik as Secretary of Homeland Security
The Roosevelt Room

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9:54 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I'm proud to announce my nomination of Commissioner Bernard Kerik as the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Bernie Kerik is one of the most accomplished and effective leaders of law enforcement in America. In his career, he has served as an enlisted military police officer in Korea, a jail warden in New Jersey, a beat cop in Manhattan, New York City corrections commissioner, and as New York's 40th police commissioner -- an office once held by Teddy Roosevelt. In every position, he has demonstrated a deep commitment to justice, a heart for the innocent, and a record of great success.

President George W. Bush announces his nomination of Bernard B. Kerik, the New York police commissioner during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as the new Department of Homeland Security Secretary in the Roosevelt Room Friday, Dec. 3, 2004.  White House photo by Tina Hager I'm grateful he's agreed to bring his lifetime of security experience and skill to one of the most important positions in the federal government. Bernie is a dedicated, innovative reformer who insists on getting results. As the head of New York City jails, he cut inmate violence by more than 90 percent. As Mayor Rudy Giuliani's police commissioner, he had great success in reducing crime in New York City. His broad, practical, hands-on experience makes Bernie superbly qualified to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

When confirmed by the Senate, Bernie Kerik will build on the historic accomplishments of Secretary Tom Ridge. As the Department's first leader, Tom oversaw the large reorganization -- the largest reorganization of the government in nearly a half-century. He met urgent challenges with patience and purpose, and because of his service our country is safer.

Tom also carried out his duties with skill and honesty and decency. He's been my friend for more than 20 years. He is one of the great public servants of our generation. Tom Ridge has our nation's gratitude, he's got my gratitude, and I wish he and Michele all the best.

My nominee to succeed Secretary Ridge has the background and the passion that are needed to protect our citizens. As police commissioner on September the 11th, 2001, Bernie Kerik arrived at the World Trade Center minutes after the first plane hit. He was there when the Twin Towers collapsed. He knew the faces of the rescuers who rushed toward danger. He attended the funeral of the officers who didn't come back. Bernie Kerik understands the duties that came to America on September the 11th. The resolve he felt that morning will guide him every day on his job. And every first responder defending our homeland will have a faithful ally in Bernie Kerik.

As he prepares for new responsibility, Bernie Kerik has the love and support of his family: his wife, Hala; his children, Joseph, Celine and Angelina and Lisa. He will always be inspired by his father and hero, Donald Kerik, Sr., and his caring step-mother, Clara. Bernard Kerik has devoted his life to protecting his fellow citizens, and his example has led many others to take up that calling. He loves his country. He has gained the trust and admiration of millions. I call on the Senate to promptly confirm his nomination as the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Thank you for serving, Bernie, and congratulations.

MR. KERIK: Mr. President, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir.

MR. KERIK: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. President. I am deeply honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve you and this great country. You have been a strong, effective and inspirational leader in the war for freedom and against terror. Should I receive the consent of the Senate, I will devote every power I possess toward fulfilling the vital mission you have set before me and the Department of Homeland Security.

I will be particularly honored, if confirmed, to accept the torch passed from Secretary Tom Ridge, a decorated veteran, faithful public servant, and courageous trail blazer who stood at the helm of the largest reorganization of our federal government in 50 years. Our nation is truly safer because of Secretary Ridge and his tireless efforts.

To all the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security and to their partners in the federal, state, and the local government -- especially the police officers, the firefighters, the emergency medical technicians, and all other first responders -- it is your skill, sacrifice and dedication that has made the lives of all Americans more secure. You have my respect, my admiration, and I look forward to the opportunity to join with you in protecting the nation we all love.

Mr. President, I understand, as you do, the tremendous challenge that faces America in securing our nation and its citizens from the threat of terrorism. And I know what is at stake. On September 11, 2001, I witnessed firsthand the very worst of humanity, and its very best. I saw hatred claim the lives of 2,400 innocent people, and I saw the bravest men and women I will ever know rescue more than 20,000 others. There isn't a day that has passed since the morning of September 11th that I haven't thought of the sacrifices of those heroes and the losses we all suffered. I promise you, Mr. President, that both the memory of those courageous souls and the horrors I saw inflicted upon our proud nation will serve as permanent reminders of the awesome responsibility you place in my charge. I pledge to work tirelessly to honor them, and your trust in me.

I would like to thank and recognize those whose love, support and sacrifice have brought me to this day -- most particularly my wife, Hala; my children, Celine, Angelina, Joseph and Lisa; and my friend and mentor Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. I would also like to express my gratitude to the dedicated men and women of the New York City Police and Correction Departments and the many other law enforcement agencies with whom it was my honor and privilege to serve. It is you and our great country that made it possible for a young boy raised on the modest streets of Patterson, New Jersey, whose dream was to become a cop, to stand today at the side of the President of the United States and accept this extraordinary nomination.

Mr. President, thank you again for this tremendous opportunity and your confidence in me.

THE PRESIDENT: Good job. Thank you, sir.

MR. KERIK: Thank you, thank you.

END 10:01 A.M. EST