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Special Event

George W. Bush The 43rd President: White House Staff Sworn In

Aired January 22, 2001 - 9:01 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: The ceremonies are over, and now, it's time to get down to business as George W. Bush begins first week as president. Mr. Bush spent part of his full day in office yesterday, greeting guests on afternoon tour of the White House.

This morning, he's getting numbers of his staff sworn in and then getting started on his agenda.

Our White House correspondent Major Garrett joins us now. He's got a look at the new president's top priorities this morning -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon.

Yes, as you said, President Bush getting straight to work. But even before he did, another member of his Cabinet also went to work as well.

Secretary of State Colin Powell received a rousing welcome at the State Department from diplomats and foreign service employees there. He promised to streamline the State Department bureaucracy and empower them to make best -- their best decisions for him and the U.S. government. And he said that American freedom and democracy will be a light that we will shine forth to the world.

As you said, President Bush is starting his day by swearing in senior White House staff. That ceremony is due to begin in just a few minutes in the East Room.

After that, the president will meet with Republican leaders here at the White House; then also have a ceremony highlighting successful reading programs across the country.

And then he will sit down with some senior Democrats, some elder statesmen of the Democratic Party. Bob Straus (ph) is one of them, and two former senators, Paul Simon of Illinois and John Glenn of Ohio. All part of a Bush effort to extend Democratic context outside of the Congress, to build bipartisan support, which he will need to press his agenda.

That agenda, of course, start with education, a bill that the president will send, in broad outlines, to Capitol Hill tomorrow. It including many things Congress has already agreed upon. One thing, it has not. Let's talk about some of the areas of agreement, first. Increasing testing of students, increasing funds for college scholarships and grants, holding schools more responsible for teaching children to learn, particularly on those federal tests, and expand the use of charter schools, something Bill Clinton did considerably in his eight years in office.

One thing that Congress doesn't yet agree on: vouchers. That's the word that the Bush team doesn't like to use. But that's, in fact, what they are.

The Bush team plan allows parents after three years, if their children are stuck in what they describe as a failing school, to take some of that federal money, pay for a tutor or possibly private school education.

But education not the only top-agenda item for this president. Tax cuts are as well. And later on today, on Capitol Hill, two Demo -- two senators, rather, one Republican, Phil Gramm of Texas and significantly, a Democrat, Zell Miller of Georgia, will introduce a $1.3-trillion tax cut.

We now see President Bush coming in the East Room to swear in his senior staff. Let's go to that now.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's a very special privilege for me to join all of you this morning, especially with our president and first lady. I guess this is our first official function in the East Room, and, of course, with Andy Card, our chief of staff, and to have the opportunity to swear in the new White House staff.

I first arrived as a new member of the White House staff myself some 32 years ago and repeated the words that you're about to take this morning, in terms of your oath of office. I count myself extremely fortunate to be back and have the opportunity to serve a new president and to serve with a staff of as much distinction and merit as this one.

You've all taken up some very serious responsibilities that go beyond any formal job description. You served the president and you served the White House and the government. But most of all, of course, we served the American people. You serve the American people, all of you, even in appointed positions, every bit as much as those of us who've been elected to our offices.

But it's very important to remember that in the final analysis only one man put his name on a ballot and got elected president of the United States, and we're all here to serve him because, of course, he'll be held accountable for your performance. It's very important to remember that.

(LAUGHTER)

Of course, one of the things that people always remember about their White House service is how fast it went. You're so busy with such a tremendous agenda to get done and little time to do it in, but it's very important never to lose sight of the public trust that we've been given, but also I think to take time to reflect upon the history of this fantastic building and complex and those who have been here before, to take time to learn about the history of the building itself and of the people who've served and gone before. That will add, I find, immeasurably to the experience that you all are about to enjoy.

If there are downsides to working at the White House, I'm not familiar with them. Everybody talks about what a tremendous burden it is, but we didn't have to draft anybody here. We're all here as volunteers. And it is, in fact, the rarest of privileges to be asked to be a part of an administration.

You will always remember this moment, I hope, as the beginning of one of life's great experiences. So I would ask you now all to raise your right hand and repeat after me.

(ADMINISTERS OATH)

I state, state your name, will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I'm about to enter, so help me God.

(APPLAUSE)

Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you. Don't go overboard.

(LAUGHTER)

Sit down, please. No place to sit.

(LAUGHTER)

OK, don't sit down.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you all for coming.

Mr. Vice President, thank you very much.

Chief of staff Card, I'm honored to have you by my side. Started work this morning, and there he was, smiling and ready to go on behalf of the American people.

The first lady and I are honored to be living here, and we're honored to be hosting this event, the first we've done in this glorious room since the inauguration. I want to thank the family members who are here. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for a long hours, accepting the long hours that your loved ones are about to put in on behalf of the American people.

Some of the folks that are here have worked in past administrations. Some of us, this is a new experience. But for all of us, it is an honor of a lifetime. And it is our privilege to share this together.

I am here to lead the executive branch of government. You are all here because you have my full confidence. And we are here with the same basic purpose: to serve the American people.

We have all taken an oath. And from this moment on, it is our jobs to honor it.

Today everything is so promising and new. My hope is that the day will never come when of us take this place for granted and this honor for granted.

As we serve, we must always remember three things:

First, we must remember the high standards that come with high office. This begins with careful adherence to the rules. I expect every member of this administration to stay well within the boundaries that define legal and ethical conduct. This means avoiding even the appearance of problems. This means checking and, if need be, double- checking that the rules have been obeyed. This means never compromising those rules. No one in the White House should be afraid to confront the people they work for, for ethical concerns, and no one should hesitate to confront me as well. We are all accountable to one another. And above all, we are all accountable to the law and to the American people. My White House counsel, Al Gonzales, is my pointman on these issues. If you have even a hint of ethical doubt, I urge you to talk to Al.

Second, we must remember that high standards of conduct involve not only obeying the law, but showing civility. As we go about our work, there's no excuse for arrogance and never a reason for disrespect toward others. People who work here are highly visible throughout the government. In many your dealings, you'll be the face and voice of the White House staff. You'll be my representative. I expect each of you, as an official of this administration, to be an example of humility and decency and fairness.

And finally, we must all remember that we are here for a reason. You and I and the vice president share the same goals for our country and the same commitment to achieving them. We are here to make progress; we are not here just to mark time. The next few weeks, we will affirm the central policy goals of this administration, beginning this week with education reform. Everyone will know where we stand. Everyone will know where we're headed.

Every morning I want you to remember these goals. Every evening I want to review the progress we have made. I want it said of us at the end of our service that promises made were promises kept. On a mantle piece in this great house is subscribed the prayer of John Adams, that only the wise and honest may rule under this roof. He was speaking of those who live here. But wisdom and honesty are also required of those who work here. I know each of you is capable of meeting that charge.

This is only our second day, but time moves fast around here. So let us begin the work we were hired to do and leave this a better place than we found it.

God bless.

HARRIS: We've been watching President Bush this morning, swearing in his official staff there at the White House. You see him now greeting those who are going to have a symbol there in the room.

He laid out for them three objectives that he would like for them to maintain as standards throughout their term there in the White House. He says it's high standards for high office, placing emphasis on ethics, civility, saying there's no excuse for arrogance, and that everyone in that room will represent him and his goals for government.

And he also mapped out a reason for them being there; that is to make progress and not just mark time. He's going to begin on this progress, beginning with education, he says. When, you're saying then, is his first initiative?

They have -- most of -- at the meeting, as you can see, there's some children there. So obviously, there are some of the staffers who actually brought in their families as well.

We didn't really see that many faces we recognize, aside from that of Condoleeza Rice's, national security adviser, we did see moments ago.

And also, it's fairly interesting to see that the -- this meeting was -- or the swearing-in this morning was actually initiated by Dick Cheney, who brought back the memories of own from being sworn in himself some 32 years ago.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: When he was chief of staff -- when he was chief of staff to Gerald Ford, 34 years old at the time, the youngest chief of staff ever at the White House. Quite a phenomenal job, and has gone on to big political and business career, as well.

I think I also spotted there -- I think I saw Karen Hughes. I saw, of course, Karl Rove.

HARRIS: Karl Rove, we saw him sworn in as well.

KAGAN: Absolutely. Familiar faces that we've seen throughout the campaign.

HARRIS: Not surprising to hear the emphasis that Mr. Bush's placing on ethics and conduct and personal behavior. There, at the White House, he made plenty of references to that. And also let -- tied up his speech by saying that he intended for everyone in that room to leave this place better than when they left it -- better than when they entered it, correct.

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