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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 23, 1997
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                        AT SWEARING-IN CEREMONY                      

The Oval Office

12:18 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Welcome. Mr. Vice President, Secretary-designate Albright, members of your family, Senator Helms, Senator Mikulski. Is Congressman Hamilton here? Under Secretary Tarnoff. I'm very pleased to preside at Madeleine Albright's swearing-in today. I thank the Senate for its swift and unanimous approval of her nomination. That reflects the confidence that all of us have in this remarkable American. It also sends a strong signal of the Senate's willingness to work with us to fashion a constructive and bipartisan foreign policy to advance the national interest of America.

This is a time of great hope and opportunity. If we are going to realize its promise we must recognize that our global leadership is essential. In the next century, no less than this one, America must continue to be the world's greatest force for peace and freedom and prosperity. Madeleine Albright has the strength and wisdom to help ensure that America remains the indispensable nation.

Arriving on our shores as a refugee from tyranny and oppression, she worked her way up with determination and character to attain our nation's highest diplomatic office. She knows from her life's experience that freedom has its price and democracy its rewards. Her story is the best of America's story, told with courage, compassion, and conviction.

As our U.N. Ambassador these last four years, she has stood unflinchingly for America's interest and values. Now as our Secretary of State, she will help lead the effort to build a world where America makes the most of its partnerships with friends and allies around the world; where America leads the fight for a world that is safer from weapons of terror and mass destruction; where America leads the fight for a world that is safer from organized crime and drug trafficking and all terrorist activity; and where expanded trade brings growth and opportunity; where peace and freedom know no frontiers.

Just as I have benefitted time and again from her counsel and her judgment, the American people will benefit from her leadership and her ability to speak to them about the importance of our being strong abroad in order to have a strong, good life here at home.

On their behalf, I ask now that the Vice President swear Madeleine Albright into her new office.

(Madeleine Albright is sworn in as Secretary of State.)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, thank you. I will do all I can to validate your trust and that of the United States Senate. Because of your leadership and the courage and productivity of our people, I will begin my service as Secretary of State with the wind at my back.

America is strong, our principles are ascendant and our leadership both respected and welcome in most corners of the world. But if we are complacent or timid or unwilling to look beyond our borders, our citizens will not prosper and the framework of American leadership and the foundation of American security we have built could crumble with 21st century speed. We cannot allow that to happen. We must not shy from the mantle of leadership, nor hesitate to defend our interests, nor fail in our commitments, nor diverge from the principles that have defined, elevated and sustained our nation for more than 200 years.

Like those who came before us, we must be builders and leaders. We must heed the President's call to place patriotism above partisanship. We must formulate and finance a world-class diplomacy to complement our world-class military. And we must explain our policies and priorities to the American people with a logic they can embrace and a reasoning they can relate to their own lives.

My life reflects both the turbulence of Europe in the middle of this century and the tolerance and generosity of America throughout its existence. As I stand here today in this office, which symbolizes the power and purpose of the United States, I think especially of five people: my mother and father who taught me to love freedom; President Vaclav Havel, who helped me to understand the responsibilities of freedom; and Edmund Muskie, who gave me the confidence to know that no barrier or ceiling should stop me from serving freedom in my own life; and someone I did not know, Thomas Jefferson, who, as our first Secretary of State, set the right diplomatic course for this great nation.

Mr. President, you have stated as your goal that America should remain the world's strongest force for peace, liberty, prosperity and security, so that we can build a future for the next generation free from the worries and plagues of the past. This is an ambitious task, but we are an ambitious and determined people. With your leadership, our people's optimism and God's help, let us proceed.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Q Madam Secretary, what is your first order of business?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: To go over to the State Department and tell them all that we have a very important job to do with the hard work of our foreign service and civil service who works in the State Department. And then I will plan the next steps. But my first goal is really to go and work with the excellent people that have provided the backbone of America's diplomatic service.

Q Madam Secretary, now that you've made history, how else do you intend to differ from your predecessor?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm basically interested in serving the President of the United States and the people of the United States as best I can. I'm very proud to be an American. And I hope very much that the American people will be proud of me as I perform this service for the United States.

Thank you.

Q Are you going to be tough on the new Secretary General, as you were on his predecessor? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think we are going to meet with the new Secretary General. I'm very pleased, actually, that his -- the first official trip that -- the first visit here that the President is going to have after his inauguration is with the United Nations Secretary General. My first official act will be to meet with the President and the new Secretary General in a little while. And I think that is a very good sign of the support that the United States is going to give to the United Nations. And as the Vice President said last night, we are committed to the United Nations.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)

END 12:26 P.M. EST