Remarks at the Swearing-in Ceremony for James C. Fletcher as Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

May 12, 1986

The President. I very much wanted to be here today because this ceremony marks the dawn of a new beginning for NASA, the United States, and the free world. For over 25 years the men and women, secretaries and scientists, technicians, and astronauts of NASA have paved the way to the stars. They have charted new courses for us in a strange and forbidding and, yes, sometimes even an unforgiving environment. Some of them have even given the supreme sacrifice.

Over 25 years ago the people of this great nation made a commitment to go where no man has gone before and to do what no man has ever done before. We invited the finest minds in the Nation and world to join with us in a new but risky adventure: to explore the planets and the stars. We invited men and women from all walks of life to join a great team and a great nation to follow an uncertain path.

Everyone knew this was a great nation, and great nations pursue great efforts. This was no exception. There have been sacrifices in this program and lives lost, but there've also been great triumphs. In the 1600's another explorer with unlimited vision and an insatiable search for knowledge recognized the sacrifices of others. Sir Isaac Newton said, ``If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.'' Well, the giants of the world's finest space program, we're proud to say, are Americans.

The men and women of NASA and the Department of Defense are setting high standards that are going to be tough to follow. Jim, you're coming on board at a time when NASA and the country need you. We need a steady hand on the tiller. These past few months have been a stormy period for NASA and the space program of the United States. Dr. Bill Graham, who's been serving as the Acting Administrator, has seen us through some high seas and gale force winds, and he has done a fine job. The space shuttle and our missile launch programs are the foundations of our nation's journey to the stars and beyond. It's time to rededicate ourselves to this destiny, and in our view, you, Jim, are the one to make that happen. So, congratulations, and God bless you.

Mr. Fletcher. Thank you, Mr. President, the Vice President, and all of the others here. As you know, I was reluctant to accept this assignment when you first called. After receiving the warm welcome from NASA last week, I've completely flipped over, and I'm anxious to get to work. I must say that we've got a little bit of business ahead of us, but it won't be long before we are flying again. And with the help of some of the people that you see in front of you -- NASA hands and many others -- we'll do that. And of course the Members of Congress, members of the committee -- we expect some of their support, too, and I think with their help we'll be back on track again, Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke at 11:08 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.