For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 17, 2006
President Attends Swearing-In Ceremony for Mary Peters as Secretary of Transportation
Department of Transportation
1:16 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. We are here to congratulate Mary Peters on becoming our nation's 15th Secretary of Transportation.
Mary is a dedicated public servant, an experienced leader, and one of our nation's most innovative thinkers on transportation issues. Mary brings more than two decades of knowledge and skill to her new post. She also brings to her position the love and support of her friends and her family. I want to thank her family for being here, especially Mary's husband, Terry.
I appreciate my Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, who is here to administer the oath. Presidents can't administer the oath. (Laughter.) So I tapped my man, Josh. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Maria Cino, who is the Deputy Secretary, Acting Secretary. I thank you for your service and your friendship.
I appreciate my friend, Secretary Norm Mineta. I got some other stuff to say about you here in a minute. (Laughter.) I do want to thank Rodney Slater for joining us, former Secretary of Transportation, as well as Jim Burnley. Thank you both for coming. I'm proud you're here. And I know Secretary Peters appreciates it, as well.
The job of Secretary of Transportation is one of the most important in our federal government. The American people rely on the Department of Transportation to maintain a safe, reliable and efficient transportation system. And the future of our growing economy and changing infrastructure depend on the decisions made by the Secretary that will be put into action by this Department.
The Secretary of Transportation also plays an important role in our nation's coordinated efforts to guard against terrorist threats to our aircraft, seaports and infrastructure. For the past six years, these responsibilities have been carried out by Norm Mineta, who served our country with distinction, integrity and dedication. Norm is our nation's longest serving Secretary of Transportation. And he's served at a time of great consequence for our country.
I remember after the attacks of September the 11th, when Norm led the successful effort to bring tens of thousands of passengers aboard commercial aircraft to safe landings. He grounded quite a few planes, including the ones my mom and dad were on. They've always thanked you for that, Norm. (Laughter.)
After Hurricane Katrina, Norm and his team helped quickly repair and reopen the major -- area's major highways, airports, seaports, and pipelines. He offered incentive-based contracts and used other innovative ideas, and as a result, the Department of Transportation was to get critical infrastructure in place faster than usual. I want to thank you for your leadership, Norm, and I want to thank you for your lifetime of service to our country, and I wish you all the very best. (Applause.) And I want to remind you, Maria made you look pretty good while you were in office. (Laughter.)
Mary Peters is the right person to succeed Norm as the Secretary of Transportation. She worked for several years with Secretary Mineta, and she understands the fine legacy she has to live up to. She also knows firsthand the skills and dedication of the men and women who work here at the Department of Transportation. She's going to be a fine boss. She understands that to maintain our nation's competitiveness, and to sustain our growing economy, we need a Secretary who can see the challenges and be willing to confront them.
Mary Peters will provide strong leadership. She has spent a lifetime working on transportation issues in both the private and public sectors. Most recently, she has served as senior executive for transportation policy at a major engineering firm. For four years before that, she led the Federal Highway Administration. Before coming to Washington, she served in the Arizona Department of Transportation. For more than 15 years, she rose through the ranks to become director in 1998.
At both the state and federal level, Mary Peters has worked to improve safety and security on roads and bridges. She's worked to reduce traffic congestion and modernize America's transportation infrastructure. As Secretary of Transportation, Mary will work closely with federal, state and local leaders to ensure that America has a state-of-the-art transportation system, so that we can meet the needs of our growing economy.
In her new position, she will face important challenges. Next year she will lead the Department's efforts to reauthorize our nation's aviation programs. Our nation is outgrowing our aviation capacity. More people are flying every year, and so we must modernize our airports and our air traffic control.
We also face the challenges of reducing congestion in our surface and maritime transportation systems. To accomplish these tasks, America needs creative thinking and innovative solutions, and I believe Mary Peters will provide them.
As Mary works to build a better transportation system, she will be a careful steward of the people's money. She brings to her new position a reputation for fiscal discipline and integrity. As head of the Federal Highway Administration, Mary introduced better fiscal oversight and accountability. She improved management for the largest transportation projects. She worked closely with her department's inspector general to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse. She's going to carry this kind of diligence into her new job.
She understands the importance of a modern infrastructure and good management. And I'm pleased she has agreed to serve her country once again. As she takes on this important position, she has my full trust and my confidence. Mary, I look forward to working with you as the new Secretary of Transportation. Congratulations.
It's now my honor to witness the swearing-in of Mary Peters.
(The oath is administered.) (Applause.)
SECRETARY PETERS: Mr. President, I want to thank you so much. I am very touched by your kind words, and absolutely honored to have the opportunity to serve you and to serve the American people as the 15th Secretary of Transportation.
Thank you also, Chief of Staff Bolten, for administering the oath of office. And I want you to know that as I repeated those words after the Chief of Staff, they were very meaningful to me. I don't take the responsibilities that I have accepted lightly, nor do I underestimate the many challenges that the duties of this office will entail. But I stand here today ready and eager to take that opportunity on.
Mr. President, you and your team have worked very hard to make sure that our economy is growing strong and creating new jobs. And, sir, I want you to know that you have a partner that you can count on at the Department of Transportation. We all know that America's continued economic vitality, our ability to compete in a global economy, depends on dynamic and well-performing transportation systems.
As I begin my service, I would like to recognize and thank those who are most meaningful to me in my life: my husband Terry, my partner of over 40 years, and someone who has been wonderful to support me all of my marriage. (Laughter and applause.) I'd like to thank my three children and their family, Tammy, Terry and Tina, and their families are in the audience, along with the most gorgeous grandchildren in the world, let me tell you. My mother, Rose, as well as my brother, John, and my sister-in-law, Terry, thank you so much for sharing this important day with me.
My life has also been blessed by very dear friends, many of whom I see in the audience today, and I thank you all for being here with me today. I couldn't be here without your support. And Maria, to echo the President's words, thank you so much; you've kept this Department moving when Secretary Mineta left. And as I've told you, Secretary Mineta, it is no small feat to fill your shoes. But Maria and I will ably do everything we can to do so. And I'm especially honored, sir, to succeed you, and thank you for being here today, as well. Secretary Slater, also, we spoke about the challenges, and thank you for your advice and your counsel.
And it's also a pleasure to welcome my new Cabinet colleague, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Alphonso Jackson, who I believe is with us here today. Thank you, sir, for being here, also.
And let me just add, it's great to be back. (Laughter.) Now the hardest part about returning home to Arizona and being closer to family and friends, and of course the great company, George Little, that I worked for, was leaving behind a very dedicated and professional staff, the most that I have been associated with in my professional career. The employees here at the Department are the absolute soul of America's transportation network, and we will need every bit of your talent as we work with our partners in the public and private sectors to find the right way to tackle today's most pressing transportation challenges.
And at the top of the list, always, is making travel safer. But we also want to work to improve the system performance and reliability, and to find 21st century solutions for 21st century transportation challenges. Mr. President, we are not going to shy away from these tough issues. We, like you, are going to meet these issues head on.
But we can't assume that the methods of the past will work for the future. Instead, we are going to recognize that our transportation challenges have changed dramatically in the 40 years since this Department came into being, and so must our approaches.
When DOT was formed, America was in the process of building major portions of the transportation network we know today. Now much of this vital network is showing its age, just like some of us, in fact. And at the very same time, our growing economy is placing increasing demands on every one of our systems, even while the funding sources we've relied on are less and less able to keep pace with that demand.
If we're going to escape the forces of the perfect storm that are gathering before us, we must find fresh angles and ways to improve the performance of our transportation systems. Mr. President, I know that you demand accountability and results, as you should, and I will do the same with the U.S. Department of Transportation. I am committed to making sure that all the resources at the Department are used to deliver; to make our roads safer; to do everything we can to ensure that our skies, highways, ports and rails are free of traffic congestion.
These are the outcomes that the American people will judge us by: the results that they can see, in making their communities more prosperous, and improving their quality of life. And I am confident that we, working as a team, can succeed in making our transportation infrastructure safer, easier, and more efficient for all Americans.
So thank you all, sincerely thank you all for being here today. Thank you all for your good wishes. And I look forward to working with you to ensure America has the best transportation network in the world. May God bless each of you, and may God continue to bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 1:29 P.M. EDT