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 Home > News & Policies > January 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 24, 2001

Remarks by the President at Swearing-In Ceremony for Dr. Roderick Paige as Secretary of Education
Department of Education Washington. D.C.

1:24 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr. Vice President, thank you very much. Dr. Paige, family members. I look out and see so many members from the United States Senate -- Mr. Chairman, thank you for coming. Senator Kennedy, I appreciate you being here, as well. I don't want to skip anybody, but the reason I mention those two, they happen to be the Chairman and Ranking Minority of the Education Committee. I see members from the House who are here -- thank you all for coming, as well. Of course, Senator Hutchison, from the home state of Dr. Paige and the President. (Laughter.) John Culberson from the district which represents Houston. So thank you for coming. I am honored you are here.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to witness the swearing-in of a man who will help us see important reforms for education become reality.

The Vice President and I were so pleased to be invited, and are pleased to be here in this important building. It is an important moment and we were certainly not going to miss it. I wanted to see the beginning of a new era in public education.

Dr. Paige and I share a basic commitment; we'll work to bring excellence to all public schools all across America. I picked a really good man to run this department, a man of integrity, a man of common sense, a down-to-earth man who knows how to get the job done.

My administration has no greater priority than education, and Dr. Paige and I share that urgency, and there's no greater champion of reform than the man I am about to witness be sworn in as the Secretary of Education.

Every problem now facing our nation's public schools Dr. Paige faced as Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District -- children unable to read at basic levels; falling scores in science and math; problems with discipline and order. Dr. Paige answered those challenges with the spirit we must now bring to all our schools and all our districts in every state.

He did not tolerate indifference or mediocrity. He demanded the highest standards of students in schools, and people rose to the challenge. He proved that poverty does not need to be a barrier to achievement. He stressed reading as the key to all learning, and he measured progress, holding schools accountable for results. As Dr. Paige takes his new assignment, Houston is now a city proud of its schools, and a city more hopeful for its children.

Rod Paige gained his passion for education from his own background. His mother was a librarian and his dad was a school principal. His three sisters have dedicated their careers to teaching and education. And we welcome them to this ceremony today.

In his distinguished career, Rod Paige has seen firsthand what works. He has not just talked about education reform, he's practiced it. And that's why I picked him. He has shown an ability to reach across party lines, to cross old divisions for the sake of our children. I value all these qualities, and our country needs them.

We have great and urgent work to do. I'm honored to have this good man to be our partner in reform. (Applause.)

(The oath of office is administered.) (Applause.)

SECRETARY PAIGE: Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Mr. Vice President. I am honored personally, and on behalf of the Department of Education, to welcome you and the Vice President to this Department. Your presence here makes this a special occasion.

I would also like to thank many members of Congress who came today. I am looking forward to working with each of you in the service of our children. I would also like to thank each of you for generously sharing your ideas with me, and your experience with me; and also of telling me of your hopes from your part of the United States, and what we can do to make education better for all children, and what we can do to sustain a platform for building bipartisan consensus around core ideas.

Congressman Watt, thank you for your words of invocation. And also to Reverend Ratcliff, who comes all the way from Houston from the Brentwood Baptist Church to share this moment.

And on a personal note, I can't tell you how pleased I am to have my sisters and my brother and my son present -- Elaine, Alfreda, Ray and Jimmy -- who match my passion for education and my pride on being named Secretary of Education.

I would also like to thank my friends from the Board of Education from Houston. They are really responsible for the leadership in the Houston Independent School District -- Mr. Marshall and Ms. Bricker and Mr. Gaines.

Yesterday was an historical day for those of us who have been involved in reforming public education, as a privilege and pleasure to stand beside President Bush, and to watch his education reform package be handed off to Congress.

From the standpoint of educators and from the Department of Education, President Bush is not your typical President. He has made education his first priority. And the proposal that he has delivered, the proposal that was delivered yesterday, is not just an announcement of a blue ribbon panel, not just a pilot program, it's a real program.

President Bush has set forth a clear and detailed plan for making our public schools excellent, so that every child in this country can have access to a quality education. He has included in that plan not only the objectives, but the support and the flexibility that states and school districts and schools and parents need in order to reach the objective.

President Bush has assumed this as his mission -- the mission that no child will be left behind. He's made it clear that he sees the urgency involved in making our classrooms safer and equipping every child with reading and math skills, and closing the inexcusable achievement gap that exists among students attending public schools across this country -- primarily among minority students and economically disadvantaged students.

I'm proud to have been identified with the Houston Independent School District, because of that great work; and to have worked with administrators and teachers and parents to bring about change and to prove to me -- this district proved to me -- that change can happen.

I look forward to working with the President and the Vice President and members of Congress to turn President Bush's deep commitment to our public schools into quality for every student. Together with you, Mr. President; and with you, Mr. Vice President; and with Congress, we can make education reform the law of the land.

I'll work with the men and women who dedicated themselves to the Department of Education, to students across this country to empower states and school districts and schools and parents in order that we may serve the needs of our students.

When each and every child in this country can receive a quality public education, we have made history together. Together, we can.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 1:34 P.M. EST