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Special Event

Joe Allbaugh Sworn in by Bush as FEMA Head

Aired March 5, 2001 - 10:14 a.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to take you to Washington, D.C., President Bush speaking now. This is the swearing in of Joe Allbaugh as the head of FEMA.

Let's go ahead and listen to the president.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... the great state of Oklahoma, and brother. Most importantly, Diane and Taylor. Thank you all for being here. Of course, you wouldn't have missed it.

When I was a governor, Joe and I used to travel a lot together, and a lot of times people would come up and say, "Is he your bodyguard?"

(LAUGHTER)

He wasn't, but I always felt a little safer when he was around. And that's the kind of man he is and that's the kind of man I wanted to run FEMA. When the worst happens anywhere in America, I can assure you, folks will be confident when Joe Allbaugh arrives on the scene. It's not just a commanding presence or his stylish haircut.

(LAUGHTER)

It's his confidence, his character and his calm when trouble comes.

This isn't mere speculation. Last Wednesday at 10:54 in the morning, an earthquake rocked the state of Washington injuring hundreds of people and causing a billion dollars of property damage. By 11:30 that night, Joe Allbaugh was on the scene ready to assist people in need. That's the kind of man he is. I couldn't have made it to Washington without him, and I can't tell you how honored I am that he has come to Washington to serve his country.

We never know where FEMA will be needed next, but we do know what makes this agency so effective, more than 2,000 dedicated employees all across America; 4,000 standby employees, ready if needed; an ethic of professionalism and a willingness to work with state and local officials to help people in need.

As governor, I worked with FEMA officials. Joe and I have great respect for the outgoing director, James Lee Witt, and for the acting director, John McGaw. A lot of change is needed in Washington, but in this agency the standards are already high.

Every year, many thousands of Americans live through floods and hurricanes and fires. They know from personal experience that FEMA is an example of the federal government at its best.

And I'll tell you from personal experience, that FEMA has a new director that speaks to America at its best. When he acts, he'll have my full confidence. When he speaks, it will inspire confidence in others. This agency is in strong and steady hands.

Joe will be at the White House many times in the next few years. In the nature of his job, they won't always be the happiest of times, but Joe will help Americans deal with the worst in the best, most compassionate way possible.

Thank you for accepting this responsibility.

(APPLAUSE)

JOE ALLBAUGH, FEMA DIRECTOR: Mr. President, thank you for being here this morning. I am honored and humbled by your nomination, the honor, the ability to serve our country.

Secretary Evans, thank you for being here. Judge Gonzales (ph), thank you, good to see you again. Dr. Ogilvie (ph), thank you. Many of the White House staff are here, a lot of close friends from Bush- Cheney 2000, FEMA employees. Unfortunately, we couldn't get everybody in here. We've got all the regional offices, I think, that are piped in.

Let me acknowledge my wife, Diane, and daughter, Taylor. I wouldn't be here without their support and love. My parents, Marvin and Peggy, all the way from Oklahoma -- not that it's that far.

(LAUGHTER)

All the way. My brother, Jay, from Kansas. I hope you all will have an opportunity to meet my parents. You might get a glimpse and a gleam into why I am the way I am. I would not be here without their love and support over the many years.

By the way, this is a flat top, not a buzz cut.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ALLBAUGH: To the folks at FEMA, I am honored and touched by your warm welcome and support over the last two weeks.

We got off to a quick start, as you know, as the president alluded to. I'm proud to join the family of FEMA. I'm honored to be here. KAGAN: We have been listening to comments from Joe Allbaugh. He has been sworn this morning as the head of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- actually. Interesting that he would be sworn in on a day like today, when the East Coast is facing some very serious weather. He might have to go to work.

You might have seen him making an appearance last week in the Seattle area, after Washington state faced that serious earthquake. He will be the man who will show up when national disasters hit your area, if that happens to happen. This is an old friend of President Bush's, and you can tell by the banter going on between the two men, and Joe Allbaugh being very clear to say that that haircut that you'll come to see is a flat top, not a buzz cut.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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