Remarks Announcing the Resignation of William J. Bennett as Secretary of Education and the Nomination of Lauro F. Cavazos

 

August 9, 1988

 

The President. I brought some security with me today. [Laughter] I want to begin by thanking Bill Bennett for being here today and for his tenure as Secretary of Education. Bill, I'll have some additional things to say at the appropriate moment, but I don't want to let this occasion pass without noting my own belief that you've been the best thing to happen to American education since the ``McGuffey Reader.''

 

And now I'm delighted to present to you this afternoon Lauro F. Cavazos, my nominee for the post of Secretary of Education. A distinguished educator, Dr. Cavazos holds master's and doctorate degrees in zoology and physiology; has been an anatomy professor at the Medical College of Virginia, Tufts University, and Texas Tech; has served as the department chairman and dean of the Tufts University School of Medicine; and for the last 8 years has been president of Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, where he has been widely credited with expanding the scope of their programs and endowment, gaining national recognition for himself and his innovative leadership.

 

As the head of the University and Health Sciences Center, with more than 24,000 students and more than 8,500 employees, Dr. Cavazos is no stranger to the duties of administration; so with his administrative skills and his many accomplishments in the field of education, Dr. Cavazos is an ideal selection for this Cabinet post. His views on education further qualify him. Asked once by an interviewer what other rungs there were on his career ladder, he thought for a few moments, shook his head, and said, ``As far as I'm concerned, I reached the pinnacle 30 years ago. I wanted to be a professor.''

 

His commitment to the profession of teaching and to excellence in education, his belief in getting back to basics and things like homework, and above all his emphasis on education's special importance to America's minorities are messages I hope that he will sound far and wide across the Nation. Dr. Cavazos has been a leader in helping minorities gain educational opportunity in his work, where he believes progress has been made, but where much remains to be done; and I share that view. And, Dr. Cavazos, you'll have my every assistance in carrying on this important work for America's minorities.

 

Now, finally, I want to add a brief biographical note about Dr. Cavazos. He is the first Texas Tech graduate to head that university. And it is a special source of pride to his family and to the people of Texas that he is the first Hispanic to head such a major institution. The influence of Hispanic culture is evident in our everyday life. Its values, such as family, work, neighborhood, and religion, are a great sustaining influence in American life -- an influence that in the years ahead will continue to enrich our national life and heritage.

 

So, let me close, if I may, on a personal note. This job has had its thrills during the past 91 months, and not a few of those experiences I've shared with those of you in this room. But it's hard right now to think of a more exciting moment than this one and the knowledge that Dr. Cavazos will be the first Hispanic-American member of the Cabinet. That says a lot about him and about Americans of Hispanic heritage. It also says something about America, about America as a place of opportunity and hope. Dr. Cavazos is the embodiment of that tradition. This is a proud day not just for Dr. Cavazos, his family, and Hispanic-Americans, it's a proud day for all Americans. I look forward to working with the new Secretary. And, Dr. Cavazos, as an Hispanic-American once said to me, let me assure you, mi casa es su casa [my house is your house].

 

Q. Did you select him because he was Hispanic?

 

The President. I selected him because he seemed to be the best-fitted man --  --

 

Q. Is he a Republican?

 

The President.  --  -- to follow Mr. Bennett.

 

Q. It is one of George Bush's campaign promises, Mr. President.

 

The President. I didn't even ask him that. What?

 

Q. George Bush had promised that if he were elected he would name an Hispanic to his Cabinet. Are you stealing some of his thunder? [Laughter]

 

The President. No, I'm just still working at the job here. [Laughter]

 

Q. Well, Texas is an important State.

 

Q. Well, Mr. President, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International] thinks you're naming George Bush's Cabinet.

 

Q. Did the Vice President have any role in his selection, sir?

 

Mr. Fitzwater. Let's go ahead with the statements here, John [John Aubuchon, Independent Network News], and then we'll continue.

 

Mr. Cavazos. I would like to express my appreciation to you, Mr. President, for the confidence and trust that you've placed in me by asking me to lead the Department of Education, if confirmed by the Senate. Your administration has clearly demonstrated that education is one of its highest priorities, and the initiatives that you have begun in this vital area will be of tremendous benefit to this nation and to this nation's future. I share your views, and I look forward to serving you and our great country in this most important post. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

 

Q. Mr. President, is there any politics in this at all, with Texas being such an important State?

 

Secretary Bennett. Let me speak to that. [Laughter]

 

Q. Speaking of politics.

 

The President. He's on, and he's bigger than I am.

 

Secretary Bennett. That's right. It's still my classroom for another 30 days -- [laughter] --  --

 

Q. Oh, no, it's his class.

 

Secretary Bennett. Well, I mean just for the moment --  --

 

Q. What was wrong with Terrell Bell [former Secretary of Education]?

 

Q. But he's the principal.

 

Secretary Bennett.  --  -- 30 seconds. I have just met with Dr. Cavazos. As is plain, he has a distinguished academic career and a strong commitment to education. His story is an American success story. It's a tribute to his abilities and his hard work and the opportunity in the United States of America. I am confident that Dr. Cavazos will find his new job interesting. I know I certainly found it interesting. I look forward to handing over the keys, the apple, the pencils, the ruler, everything else, on September 20th, but not before. And along the lines of this classroom metaphor, Mr. President, I know you have another class to go to. So, we all want to wish Dr. Cavazos well and offer our congratulations. And I am to remind you about that other meeting, sir.

 

Q. Mr. President, is Noriega going to step down soon? Are we negotiating that?

 

The President. The principal just told me I've got to get out of the classroom.

 

Note: The President spoke to reporters at 3:25 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. Marlin Fitzwater was Assistant to the President for Press Relations.