For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 31, 2005
President Thanks Secretary Spellings at Swearing-In Ceremony
U.S. Department Of Education
10:47 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Thanks for coming. Laura and I are pleased to be here at the Department of Education with Margaret Spellings. Madam Secretary, thanks for inviting us over. (Applause.)
I have known Margaret for a long time, before we both came to Washington. When I was the governor of Texas she was a senior advisor for education, and at the White House she has been my senior domestic policy advisor. For more than 10 years, she's been right down the hall or by my side, and now I look forward to having her take her seat in the Cabinet Room. (Applause.)
It's good to be here with members of her family. I've known her husband for a while, Robert Spellings. It's good that Robert and Britain are with us. Mary and Grace are with us, as well, Margaret's daughters. Her parents, John and Peg Dudar, are here, as are other members of her family. Welcome to Washington, D.C.
I'm pleased members of the Congress have come. I am so grateful that Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Mike Enzi are with us today. Thank you both for coming. I appreciate Congressman John Boehner, Ralph Regula, and Mac Thornberry from Texas for being here. You're very gracious to take time to be here. Thank you all for being here. (Applause.)
Looking around, I see other nominees for the Cabinet and members of our administration, all fans of Margaret. I see a few Texans have come up from the great state -- thank you all for being here. We're honored you're here. I know Margaret is especially honored you're here.
She will be an outstanding Secretary of Education. She has been involved in all our efforts to strengthen America's public schools. She was instrumental in getting the No Child Left Behind Act passed, that will help raise standards in our public schools. She believes, as I do, that every child can learn, and that every school must teach.
In the past four years, we have made great strides. Today, children across America are scoring higher on state reading and math tests. The achievement gap in America is closing. We've made important progress, but Margaret understands there is still more work to be done. We will maintain the high standards of No Child Left Behind. We will extend those high standards and accountability to America's public high schools.
Today, only about 60 out of every 100 students entering our public high schools ever make it to graduation four years later. Margaret understands, as do I, that is unacceptable. We're committed to ensuring that every high school student succeeds and leaves with the skills he or she needs to succeed in college or the workplace.
Because most new jobs in our 21st century economy will require post-secondary education or training, Margaret understands we need to make higher education more affordable and accessible for all Americans. We will reform the student aid system and increase college assistance for low-income students. We'll increase the maximum award for Pell grants, and make them available to students year-round. And we will expand access to community colleges, so that more Americans can develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workplace.
Margaret is the right person to carry out a reform agenda. She is talented, she is smart, she is capable, and she is a lot of fun to be around. (Laughter and applause.) She is a mom. She has a personal stake in the success of our nation's schools. She knows that to build on the progress of No Child Left Behind, the government, the President and the Secretary of Education, and those who work in this building must listen to those closest to our children -- their parents, their teachers and their principals. She will be a thoughtful and determined leader of this department. The people who work in this building will find out that they are very lucky to have been led by the likes of Margaret Spellings. I am proud to welcome her into my Cabinet.
SECRETARY SPELLINGS: Thank you, Mr. President. I've been honored to serve you and our great country these past four years, and to have worked with you for the past decade, going back to our days in Texas. Thank you for your confidence and for your generosity and kindness to my family and me. I'd also like to thank Mrs. Bush for being here today, and for her support and commitment to improving education in this country and around the world.
Thanks to you, Secretaries Chao, Jackson, Johanns, Leavitt, and Veneman for being here today. Thanks also to Chairman Enzi, Senator Kennedy, Chairman Boehner and Chairman Regula. Your presence means so much. To all the United States Senators, I thank you for my quick confirmation. Our positive experience portends well for our ability to work together.
I am eager to work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to continue the progress begun under Secretary Rod Paige, to whom I am grateful. I'm grateful, as well, to the White House Chief of Staff, Secretary Andy Card, and my former colleague, Jim Towey, for their important roles today. And thanks to Deputy Secretary Jean Hickock for making me feel so welcome here.
Of course, I'd like to thank my family: my parents, John and Peg Dudar; my sister, Ellen; and sister and brother-in-law Nan and John Lawson; and most importantly, my husband, Robert, and our sons Britain and Robert, and daughters Mary and Grace LaMontagne.
Let me offer a special thanks to the department's 4,600 employees, my new colleagues. I look forward to our close collaboration and communication.
Mr. President, your passion for education has become our policy. Your belief that every child can learn has become our mission. When you signed No Child Left Behind into law three years ago, it was more than an act, it was an attitude; an attitude that says it's right to measure our children's progress from year to year so we can help them before it's too late; an attitude that says expecting students to read and do math at grade level or better is not too much to ask.
Mr. President, you had faith that our teachers, principals and administrators could make it happen, and your faith is being rewarded. Across the nation, test scores in reading and math are rising, with disadvantaged and minority students leading the way. Yes, after long decades, the pernicious achievement gap is beginning to close. We've learned a new equation: Accountability plus high expectations plus resources equals results. We must stay the course.
At the same time, we must work to close another gap, the skills gap, faced by our high school graduates. We must introduce the reforms of No Child Left Behind to our high schools, so that diplomas become tickets to success in the 21st century. America enjoys many, many good schools and great teachers who share our passion and commitment to excellence. As someone who has worked for school boards, a state legislature and a Texas governor, I know that many solutions can be found outside of Washington, D.C. We will find and share them as we continue to build bridges to educators, public officials and parents.
Finally, let me say a few words about this department. One of the first things you notice is that there is no ivory tower. I pledge to run an open, honest and accessible department, one that operates with integrity at all levels.
I stand here today as a product of the public schools. I'm also an education consumer, the first mother of school-age children to serve as Secretary of Education. In carrying out my duties to the American people, I will be carrying out my duties as a mom. And there's none more important than to provide a quality education to our children.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 10:55 A.M. EST