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Special Event

Rod Paige Sworn in as Secretary of Education

Aired January 24, 2001 - 1:18 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: He is about to speak. He is about to swear in his new secretary of education, Rod Paige. This is taking place at the Barnard Auditorium of the Department of Education. We see the vice president with Rod Paige on the right of your screen, J.C. Watts at the podium.

REP. J.C. WATTS (R), OKLAHOMA: Welcome to the swearing in ceremony for Dr. Roderick R. Paige as the new secretary of education. As a matter of fact, the first secretary of education in the new millennium. I got a bio on Secretary Paige several weeks back and noticed two things from his bio that I fell in love with him instantly. He's an old football coach. And he wears boots every day.

So let's pray. Our Father and our God, we are so thankful for this opportunity to gather and experience what's about to unfold before our very eyes. And Father, in this time right now, we pray a special blessing upon this new administration. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Lord, use them and their administration to see wonderful things happen for the greatest nation in all the world.

Father, we thank you for Doctor Paige. His life, his service to his community, to his state, his nation, to mankind, dear God, I pray for wisdom for him, vision, endurance, character. And dear God, most of all, I pray for grace.

Father, we thank you for sending us a man like Dr. Paige for such a time as this in our nation's history.

Father, use his life and his vision, his administration, his efforts to make sure that no child is left behind. Father, bless this time, bless this ceremony, as only you can do, thank you for your grace, your mercy to the name of Jesus, we pray, amen.

I give to you now the vice president of the United States.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, J.C. Mr. President, Mr. Secretary. Ladies and gentlemen, yes, please be seated. That's why he's the president, I'm the vice president.

It's an honor to welcome all of you here today and to begin an era of promise for America's public schools, led by new a president and a new secretary of education. President Bush and I have already taken our respective oaths of office. It was our wish to be here today as a sign of support for this department and for your new secretary, that we be here to participate in Rod Paige's ceremony as well.

You can judge a president's commitment to an issue by looking at the person that he's put in charge. Seeing the caliber and the record of Doctor Paige, you know you are dealing with an issue very near to the president's heart.

As President Bush has said many times, education is a local responsibility, but a national concern. And as of now, a presidential priority.

The early hours of this administration have been dedicated to putting in place a solid education agenda. One built on new thinking and on bipartisan cooperation.

We've already sat down at the White House with education leaders from both parties and both Houses of Congress. There's a great deal of work yet to do. The good news is for the American people that just four days into this administration that work has begun.

Doctor Paige is to serve as head of a department filled with able, dedicated public servants. He has risen to high office, as good people always do, through solid performance, superb judgment, and the highest personal integrity. He now becomes the nation's foremost voice for excellence in education and the president's closest adviser in the work of reform.

These are not men who think about averages, hoping the good schools will balance out the bad ones. These are men who think about excellence across the board. Leaders who understand that here, in the greatest nation on earth, in the 21st century, our goal must be a good public school in every neighborhood in the country.

Doctor Paige's colleagues in the administration already have great respect for him. Soon the American people will come to know him and place great faith in him.

Now I'm pleased to introduce the man who selected him, the president of the United States, George W. Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. I want to 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'm honored you're 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 certainly were not going to miss it.

I wanted to be here 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'm about to witness to 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 a spirit we must now bring to all our schools in 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 a great and urgent work to do. I'm honored to have this good man to be our partner in reform.

(APPLAUSE)

CHENEY: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me.

I Roderick Paige.

ROD PAIGE, EDUCATION SECRETARY: I Roderick Paige.

CHENEY: Will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

PAIGE: Will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

CHENEY: Against all enemies foreign and domestic.

PAIGE: Against all enemies foreign and domestic.

CHENEY: That I will bare true faith and allegiance to the same.

PAIGE: That I will bare true faith and allegiance to the same.

CHENEY: That I take this obligation freely.

PAIGE: I take this obligation freely.

CHENEY: Without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

PAIGE: Without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

CHENEY: And that I will well and faithfully discharge.

PAIGE: And I will well and faithfully discharge.

CHENEY: The duties of the office on which I'm about to enter.

PAIGE: The duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

CHENEY: So help me God.

PAIGE: So help me God.

CHENEY: Congratulations.

PAIGE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Please be seated.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Thank you, Mr. Vice president.

I'm honored personally, and on behalf of the Department of Education, welcome you, the vice president, to this department. Your presence here makes this a special occasion. I also like to thank many members of Congress who came today. I'm looking forward to working with each of you in the service of our children.

And I'd 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 Watts, thank you for your words of invocation, and also to Reverend Radliff (ph), 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, Alfeda (ph), Ray, and Jimmy, who match my passion for education and my pride on being named secretary of education.

I also like to thank my friends from the Board of Education from Houston. They are really responsible for the leadership in the Houston Independence School District, Mr. Marshall (ph) and Ms. Bricker (ph) and Mr. Gains (ph).

Yesterday was a historical day for those of us who have been involved in reforming public education. I had the 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's 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's 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 their objectives.

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 classroom 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 am proud to have been identified with the Houston Independent School District because of their 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 for 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 have 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.

WATERS: Dr. Rod Paige, son of a librarian, his mother and son of a school principal, with a passion for education, being sworn in by the vice president and honored by the president. And the first major symbol of a new administration, on the priorities of the president, that no child will be left behind. To quote the vice president, "Our goal is to create good public schools in every neighborhood of the country."

And so, we have a new secretary of education. We have the Congress in on the proposals by Mr. Bush for improving the nation's education system. And now we wait to see if the issues of bipartisanship can be sustained in Washington.

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