Remarks at the Swearing-In Ceremony for Vivian Vahlberg as President of the National Press Club

February 10, 1982

The President. Well, thank you for that warm welcome, Helen, and fellow members. It's a real pleasure to pay another visit to this fine old club, where so much history has been made. And tonight we're making it again with the inauguration of the first woman president in the National Press Club's long history. After 74 years, it's about time. [Laughter] And speaking of septuagenarians, I've got to have a little talk with your financial secretary, as I understand that I'm eligible for reduced dues. [Laughter]

For tonight, though, we have more pressing business. I know I speak for all my fellow members when I say thank you to our outgoing president, Joe Slevin, for a job well done. And best wishes to Vivian Vahlberg on the office she's about to assume.

I'm only the latest of many Presidents to visit the club. One of my favorites, Cal Coolidge, dedicated this building. [Laughter] They didn't call him Cal for nothing. I'm sure you all remember how he answered that inquisitive lady who said she had a bet that she could get more than three words out of him. He looked at her for a minute and then said, ``You lose.'' [Laughter]

Well, tonight nobody loses. The club begins a new era. That's era, not ERA. [Laughter] And it's also on the threshold of a promising renovation program. I can honestly say that I feel a sense of humility standing here at this moment in the same building where silent Cal laid the cornerstone, Harry Truman played the piano, and Richard Nixon ate a hamburger. [Laughter] What's left for me? The cornerstone is already in place. I can't play the piano, and my foodtaster is home sick -- something he ate no doubt. [Laughter] But like a second Tip O'Neill, I'll stoop to the occasion. [Laughter] In what has come to be informal Oklahoma tradition, I'll administer a pledge of office to Vivian.

Now 14 years ago, Lyndon Johnson was here when Allan Cromley was sworn in for this same office. And Al seems to have survived that glorious burden with flying colors. He's here with us tonight and still bureau chief for the Daily Oklahoman, where Vivian has served with such distinction for the past 11 years. Actually, I was second choice for this job. I'm pinch-hitting for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who had a previous engagement. [Laughter]

Ms. Vahlberg. Not true. First choice.

The President. But I understand the oath of office has been revised to fit the special nature of tonight's occasion, so it may sound a bit unfamiliar to some of the veteran members.

Vivian, stand by -- this isn't really binding, so you don't need to hold up your right hand. [Laughter] Dearly beloved -- [laughter] -- we are gathered together this evening under the slightly bleary eyes of the membership to join together this, shall we say, newsperson in unholy matrimony with the office of president of the National Press Club. If anyone knows any reason why this ceremony should not take place, forget it. [Laughter] You've already voted and it was unanimous. The chair having heard no objections, we'll proceed.

Do you, Vivian, promise to love, honor, and obey the constitution of the National Press Club, to cherish it always, in sickness and in health, through deficits and remodeling -- [laughter] -- till politics do you part? Do you promise to uphold the sacred traditions of the card room, the billiard room, and the tap room -- [laughter] -- and to brave the slings and arrows of outrageous board and membership meetings? [Laughter] Most of all, do you promise to keep the National Press Club a warm and vital place where writers, reporters, newsmakers, and other questionable types -- [laughter] -- meet to formally and informally exchange views, ideas, and plain good fellowship, to maintain what is finest in its past and work to build its future as a major world news center? If so, please signify by saying, ``I do.''

Ms. Vahlberg. I do.

The President. I wish the answers at my press conferences were that simple. [Laughter] But then, I guess these questions make more sense than a lot of the questions that I'm asked there. [Laughter]

All right then, Vivian, as a retired journalist, as a proud member of the National Press Club, and as the chief executive of another Washington concern with deficit problems -- [laughter] -- I now pronounce you president of the National Press Club.

What I don't know is, Vivian, do I kiss the bride -- but, you'd better kiss her. [Laughter]

Ms. Vahlberg. Thank you very much.

The President. We'll just shake hands.

Ms. Vahlberg. Okay. [Laughter]

Ms. Thomas. Thank you, Mr. President, and don't forget to leave the seal. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 8:06 p.m. in the National Press Club Ballroom at the National Press Building. He was introduced by Helen Thomas of United Press International.