THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT DURING SWEARING-IN OF JANET RENO AS ATTORNEY GENERAL The Roosevelt Room
9:21 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please be seated. We are honored here in the White House to be joined today by distinguished members of the Senate and the House: Senator Biden, Senator Hatch, Senator Kennedy, Senator Sarbanes -- one of Janet Reno's senators, Senator Connie Mack. Senator Graham called me last night. He's in Florida today with the First Lady at a health care hearing. And he said he had an excused absence from the Attorney General. (Laughter.)
The Speaker and Congressman Edwards are here, and we're delighted to see all of them. I also would say we're delighted to be joined by Mr. Justice White and Mrs. White. Thank you very much for coming. Let me say that it is a great honor for me to be able to be here at this ceremony today with Janet Reno, her family and a few of her many friends.
I'd like to say a special word of thanks to Stuart Gerson, who has served ably and honorably as Acting Attorney General since the Inauguration. I think we owe him a round of applause. (Applause.)
Somehow I don't think any of my other proposals will pass the Senate with the same vote margin -- (laughter) -- that Janet's confirmation did. I especially want to thank Senator Biden and Senator Hatch, and the members of the Judiciary Committee for waiving the normal waiting period between hearings and the confirmation vote, making this event possible today and making it possible for us to proceed immediately with the urgent tasks at hand. (Laughter.)
But more than anything else, I think it is clear that Janet Reno made her own swift confirmation possible, showing the Senate and all who followed the hearings the qualities of leadership and integrity, intelligence and humanity that those gathered in this room have recognized for a very long time.
You shared with us the life-shaping stories of your family and career that formed your deep sense of fairness and your unwavering drive to help others to do better. You showed us that your career in public service, working on the front lines in your community, fighting crime, understanding the impact on victims and on neighborhoods. Mending the gritty social fabric of a vibrant but troubled urban area is excellent preparation for carrying forward the banner of justice for all the American people.
You'll help to guide the federal government to assist state and local law enforcement in ways that really count. You've demonstrated that you will be a formidable advocate for the vulnerable people in our society and especially for our children.
Most of all, you have proved to the nation that you are a strong and an independent person who will give me your best legal judgment whether or not it's what I want to hear. (Laughter.) It's an experience I've already had, I'm glad to say. (Laughter.) That is the condition upon which you accepted my nomination and the only kind of attorney general that I would want serving in this Cabinet.
As Janet Reno begins her work at the Justice Department, she will enter a building that symbolizes our nation's commitment to justice, to equality, to the enforcement of our laws. On the side of that building, carved above one of the portals is the inscription: "The halls of justice are a hallowed place." With Janet Reno serving as our nation's Attorney General, those words will have great meaning for all Americans. (Applause.)
MS. RENO: I'd like you all to meet little Janet Reno. (Laughter.)
(Justice White administers the oath to Janet Reno.)
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Justice White, Mr. Speaker, Senators, this is an extraordinary moment. I just think of the history that is here today when I think of Mr. Justice White and the administration that he was involved in and the Department of Justice, probably the most historic attorney generalship in the history of this country and one -- an example of which I would like to follow.
Mr. President, you have done me a great honor. And, Senators, you have done something very special. I have sensed it for the last three days that there will be a new spirit in America where people will want to become involved in public service because it is the greatest undertaking you can commit for your nation. They will want to become involved in public service because it will be a time where people will can address issues that we're all concerned about: crime and drugs and giving our children an opportunity to grow as strong and healthy human beings. And that we can address them together in a spirit of free discussion with great respect for each other, with sometime disagreement, but with a common commitment to do what's right for American.
And the spirit of these confirmation hearings, the grand words that people were very gracious to say about me yesterday give me such encouragement and they make me think that this is such an extraordinary challenging time.
I say to all Americans, particularly young Americans -- and Mr. President you see my major commitment to children by the one standing next to you and the youngest one of the family back there -- (laughter) -- that public service is a great undertaking and that this is a new and wonderful time in American history where we want to make government reflective of its people, make its people come first and give all Americans an opportunity to be attorney general, senators and serve the people.
Thank you ever so much, Mr. President. (Applause.)
END 9:30 A.M. EST