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 Home > News & Policies > June 2006

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 7, 2006

President Participates in Swearing-In Ceremony for Dirk Kempthorne as Secretary of the Interior
The South Lawn

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     Fact sheet President's Cabinet

3:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Welcome to the White House. Laura and I are thrilled you are here to witness the swearing-in of Dirk Kempthorne as our nation's 49th Secretary of the Interior.

We welcome Dirk's family, particularly his wife, Patricia, and his children, Heather and Jeff. Thank you all for being here. I'm really happy Dirk's dad, Jim, is with us. I sure appreciate you being here, Mr. Kempthorne. I want to thank all the other friends of the Kempthorne family and members of the family who have joined us here today.

President George W. Bush congratulates former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, as Kempthorne’s family and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, left, applaud following the swearing-in ceremony for Kempthorne as the new U.S. Secretary of Interior, Wednesday, June 7, 2006 on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.  White House photo by David Bohrer I found it interesting that when Dirk and Patricia were married, they chose a wedding ceremony at sunrise high atop Idaho's Moscow Mountain. It's an interesting commitment to make, isn't it? (Laughter.) And an interesting place to make the commitment. It shows a love of -- Dirk's love for his wife and their mutual love for nature. And one of the reasons I picked Dirk Kempthorne is because of his love of the beautiful country that we are fortunate to call America. That's why I picked him.

I want to appreciate the Vice President joining us today. Mr. Vice President, welcome. Thank you for being here, sir. I want to thank Justice Scalia for joining us, to administer the oath of office.

Dirk, you must be given a lot of these kind of swearing-in ceremonies, and we generally don't have a man of such esteem join us in a situation like this. (Laughter.)

I appreciate Lynn Scarlett, the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, joining us, as well as all those who work for the Secretary of the Interior. I want to thank members of my Cabinet for being here. Thank you all for coming. Appreciate you taking time out of your day to be here. I know Dirk does, as well. I appreciate members of the United States Senate who join us, starting with the Senate President Pro Tem, Ted Stevens. Thank you, Senator, proud you're here; as well as the two Senators from Idaho, Larry Craig and Mike Crapo. Thank you both for joining us. We have the House Majority Whip with us, Roy Blunt. I see former colleagues of Dirk Kempthorne have joined us, as well. Thank you all for coming.

We have the privilege of living in a land of unparalleled beauty. We've got vast mountain ranges and mighty rivers and open plains and spectacular coastlines. These open spaces are shared -- are the shared heritage of everybody. They just don't belong to a few people, they belong to all of us. It's the job of the Secretary of the Interior to manage these natural resources in such a way that we can pass them on to future generations in good shape. That's Dirk's job. There's no doubt in my mind he'll be able to do it well.

Dirk Kempthorne is uniquely qualified for this important position. He is the first Secretary of the Interior to serve as a governor, a senator, and a mayor. And each of these positions prepared Dirk well for his new responsibilities.

President George W. Bush stands with former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne as he is sworn-in as the new U.S. Secretary of Interior by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, left, Wednesday, June 7, 2006 on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Patricia Kempthorne holds the Bible during her husband’s swearing-in, joined by their children Heather Myklegard and son, Jeff Kempthorne. White House photo by Eric Draper As governor of Idaho, Dirk was responsible for managing Idaho's 30 state parks and recreational trails. He proved himself to be an outstanding steward of his state's open spaces. He launched a statewide initiative to fund improvements in the state's parks and public spaces. He created the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. He established the Governor's Office of Species Conservation. He's a true conservationist with a track record to prove it.

As a United States senator, Dirk chaired the Subcommittee on Drinking Water, Fisheries and Wildlife, and built bipartisan support to enact comprehensive reforms to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

As a former mayor of Boise, Dirk understands that those who live closest to the land know how to manage it best. He understands that while people here in Washington may care deeply about the land, it's the people that's closest to the land that we're going to rely upon to manage those resources. We're going to work closely with local and state leaders to ensure our natural resources are managed wisely.

Dirk takes up his new responsibilities at an important time in our nation's history, and he follows an outstanding Secretary of the Interior in Gale Norton. Gale was instrumental in establishing the Healthy Forest Initiative to safeguard our forests and woodlands against fire damage. And thanks to her leadership, our administration has reduced the danger of fires by treating or removing hazardous fields from 11 million acres of federal land so far. Gale also led the effort in Washington to improve our national parks and reduce the park maintenance backlog that we found when we came into office. Dirk is going to continue focusing on our national parks.

The Hurricane Katrina devastated our nation's Gulf Coast. Gale helped lead the effort to restore off-shore energy production. She worked tirelessly to prevent a massive energy disruption that could have crippled our economy. America is a better place because of Gale Norton's leadership.

Dirk Kempthorne is going to build upon the strong foundation left by Gale Norton. He's going to continue my administration's effort to conserve our land and water and air resources. He's going to work to improve our national parks. He's going to preserve our nation's historic and cultural sites. He'll carry forward our approach of cooperative conservation by encouraging conservation on both public and private lands in close collaboration with local communities. As we work to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, he will make sure that any exploration on federal lands and federal waters is done in an environmentally sensitive way. As the Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne will make certain that our nation's natural spaces are cleaner and safer and more productive.

President George W. Bush invites former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to the podium, after Kempthorne’s swearing-in ceremony as the new U.S. Secretary of Interior, Wednesday, June 7, 2006 on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. White House photo by Eric Draper I want to thank Dirk for agreeing to serve our country again. I want to thank his family for supporting him. And now it's my honor to witness the swearing-in of Dirk Kempthorne. (Applause.)

JUSTICE SCALIA: It's my custom when I swear somebody in to say a few words about the oath you're about to hear. It is not a ceremonial occasion, it is a constitutional requirement. Article 6, Section 3 requires all -- members of all three branches of the federal government, of the state governments, to be sworn by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution.

And the very first statute ever enacted by the Congress was 1, Stat 1, which was a form of oath. It was much simpler than the one you will hear today. It was just -- it was a simpler age, I guess -- I swear to support the Constitution of the United States. George Washington added at the end of it, "So help me God," and that has become the tradition. But the oath you'll hear today was signed by Abraham Lincoln, about two months before the battle of Antietam, and you can smell the Civil War in its addition to the simple, "I will support the United States Constitution."

(The oath is administered.) (Applause.)

SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: Mr. President, I am grateful for the privilege and the honor of joining your administration, and for this great event. Mr. Vice President, your Wyoming roots gave you a love of the outdoors, and I'm very honored to have your presence here today. And to the First Lady, Laura Bush, Patricia and I thank you for being here, and for what you mean to all of the country. Justice Scalia, with the time that you spent in Idaho, there could be no better person to administer the oath to me. And on a historic note, when you mentioned this oath was signed some two months after Antietam, my great-grandfather, whose Bible I took the oath upon, was wounded at Antietam.

Fellow Cabinet Secretaries, Senators and Representatives, tribal leaders and distinguished guests and friends, thank you all for being here.

Mr. President, after you asked me to be the Secretary of Interior, several White House staff members said that I needed to understand that you, Mr. President, want your administration to be good stewards of our lands and our waters; that you want energy developed responsibly; that you respect those who hunt and fish; and that you want to foster good relations with Indian country; and that the First Lady also loves and cares for national parks. I said, yes, that's what the President said to me in the Oval Office. What your staff was saying, of course, was that the big man would be looking over my shoulder. (Laughter.)

Well, Mr. President, I welcome your interest and your support. And can I assume, therefore, that the budget for the Department of Interior will soon be as big as the Department of Defense? (Laughter and applause.)

Seriously -- (laughter) -- another President, Ronald Reagan, who was fortunate to have your father at his side, once said, "Only in Washington would the department in charge of the great outdoors be called the Department of Interior." Now, why is my new Department called Interior? Our nation, born in revolution against overseas tyranny, first needed Departments of State, War, Treasury and Justice to focus on issues exterior to the new United States. Later, a department was needed to handle all of the issues that affected the interior of the United States. And, thus, the Department of the Interior was born.

As the nation grew, so did Interior's responsibilities. Today, in addition to overseeing 390 national parks and 565 wildlife refuges, Interior produces one-third of our domestic energy; it provides water to 31 million Americans; manages relations with 561 Indian tribes; has the third largest law enforcement force in the federal government; and conducts science for a changing world.

These awesome responsibilities that you have entrusted to me, Mr. President, will be easier to fulfill with the help of those who are here today. I'm here with Patricia, my wonderful wife; our daughter, Heather; our son, Jeff, who give me the titles that I'm most proud to have, and that is husband and father. Also here is Heather's husband, Drew, who is enlisted in the Idaho Army National Guard and is proud to have you, Mr. President, as his Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.) Also here is my father, Jim, who turns 90 on the 4th of July. And so is my older brother, James. My other brother, Mark, could not be here. And all of us carry the wonderful memory of my mom, Maxine.

I'm also here with the mentors and partners and staff who have guided and aided my career in public service. With your support, Mr. President, with my family at my side, the counsel of partners and the help of Interior's outstanding 70,000 employees, I'm ready to hit the ground running -- even if I did break my foot. (Laughter.)

Since my nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate -- and I thank my former colleagues in the Senate -- I've reached out to governors, to senators, to representatives, to tribal leaders, mayors, energy producers, environmentalists. Together we can make positive history. Together we can, and must, wisely manage energy development. This is an issue of both economic and national security. Together we can, and must, implement the traditional and renewable responsibilities you and a bipartisan Congress told Interior to achieve in the Energy Policy Act.

Together we can, and must, improve the education provided to 48,000 children who attend Indian schools. I commend Congress, and you, Mr. President, for investing $1.6 billion in Indian school construction over the past five years. We will work even harder with parents and teachers so that these children get the education that they need to fulfill their greatest dreams.

Together we can, and must, care for our wildlife refuges, and our national parks, not just for our benefit, but for the benefit of our children's grandchildren, and those to come.

Behind us is the Washington Monument, part of our national parks, now reopened with greater protection from those who choose to hurt us. Mr. President, this is just one of 6,000 national park improvement projects completed or underway during your watch as President. Projects like this help make our parks worthy of the title "America's Greatest Gift."

I come from Idaho, home to spectacular scenery. There is no more beautiful cathedral than the outdoors. America the beautiful is blessed with countless natural cathedrals that deserve our preservation.

One of those who understood America's great beauty was Theodore Roosevelt. A century ago, President Roosevelt came to Boise, Idaho. And on the grounds of the state Capitol, he planted a sugar maple tree. It grew to be a mature and a majestic tree. Beneath its canopy, 29 years ago, I asked my wife Patricia to marry me.

In my last days as governor, a mighty storm toppled that tree. One of the my last official acts as the governor of Idaho was to help a group of schoolchildren, with soil on their hands, plant another sugar maple tree in the very same place. That tree will mean something to them. They will watch it grow, knowing that they were there the day that it was planted.

The simple joy of planting a tree, like so many things that we take for granted, is made possible because we are free, able to enjoy God's creation. As Secretary, it is my goal, Mr. President, to continue the course that you have set so that the flowers of freedom will bloom, the fruits of conservation will ripen, and the trees of learning that you have so carefully planted will reach to the heavens. If we nurture in our children, and in all of us, a passion for stewardship, Americans will benefit for generations to come.

As I stand here in the city that honors his name, near the house that he helped design, near the monument that bears his name, I'm mindful that it was George Washington who, upon taking the oath as President of these United States, added extemporaneously the words, "So help me God." The best way to end my remarks and to begin my service as the Secretary of Interior is to repeat those words, "So help me God." (Applause.)

END 3:20 P.M. EDT