Remarks at the Swearing-in Ceremony for Lauro F. Cavazos as Secretary of Education

 

September 20, 1988

 

The President. Well, Mr. Vice President, and now, Mr. Secretary and Mrs. Cavazos, Members of the Congress that are here, and ladies and gentlemen, thank all of you. And as I'm sure you know, we're here today to celebrate a bit of good news for the Nation: the swearing-in that has just taken place of Dr. Lauro F. Cavazos as our country's fourth Secretary of Education and, I'm honored to add, as the first Hispanic Cabinet officer in American history. I know all of you join me in extending -- and you've shown that -- to Dr. and Mrs. Cavazos and to their family and friends a proud welcome to the White House.

 

Of course, September is the month when American education goes back to work, so now seems a perfect time to introduce a new Secretary of Education. Just 2 weeks ago, many American students, teachers, and administrators returned to their classrooms and offices in pursuit of knowledge and its matchless rewards. We sometimes take this for granted, but theirs is a high calling, a grand enterprise of individual effort and collective, national purpose. And I'm pleased to say they could not have a finer colleague, advocate, and spokesman than Larry Cavazos, whose own life and career pay eloquent tribute to the ennobling possibilities of good education.

 

The son of a foreman at the legendary King Ranch in south Texas, Larry Cavazos went on to earn master's and doctoral degrees in zoology and physiology; to teach anatomy and biology as a professor at the Medical College of Virginia, at Tufts University, and at Texas Tech University; and to serve first as anatomy department chairman and then as dean of the Tufts University School of Medicine. For the past 8 years, Dr. Cavazos has been president of Texas Tech University, winning for that great institution, and for himself, a well-deserved national reputation for educational leadership and innovation. Lastly, and maybe most important, I might also point out that he and his wife, Peggy, have raised 10 children. Now, that's what I call real homework. [Laughter]

 

But with his scholarship and his work in academic administration; through his membership in innumerable national, inter-American, and international organizations; and by his participation in the movement for school reform where it counts -- at the grassroots -- Larry Cavazos has already made a major contribution to American education, and he brings to his new post a record of solid accomplishment that promises even bigger contributions in the future. But along with high distinction, Dr. Cavazos brings something else to the Cabinet and to the Department of Education, something even more important to our schools and to our students, something I've made a cornerstone of this administration's policies since day one. And that something is the idea of educational excellence and a passionate commitment to quality schooling for every American child.

 

I know that Dr. Cavazos shares my pride in the substantial progress American education has made since 1981. And I'm sure, too, that he believes, as I do, that we can and must do better still. And I have every confidence that his work as Education Secretary will continue to lead the way, that his voice will continue to reflect the great good sense Americans have always had about our children and our schools, and that his effort will be devoted to keeping a national spotlight of attention on education.

 

You know, I've spent some of the happiest days of my life -- and at my age, that's saying a lot -- [laughter] -- visiting American classrooms, meeting American teachers and students, and watching them work and learn. And Larry Cavazos will do the same. Larry is, to be sure, a sterling example of the magnificent contributions Hispanic-Americans have made to our national life. But I know his service in the Cabinet will speak to all Americans, from every background, in every circumstance, of the real hope and opportunity that good education always provides. With Secretary Cavazos -- hey, that sounds good, doesn't it? -- [laughter] -- American education will be in sure and loving hands.

 

Well, Larry and Peggy, congratulations, and welcome aboard! It's a proud moment for you and me and for all of us.

 

Secretary Cavazos. Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen. What a tremendous privilege it is for me to be here today. Mr. President, I do so appreciate your confidence and trust, your selecting me for this position of Secretary of Education.

 

You've brought great leadership to our nation, and your commitment to education has truly helped this country make significant gains and strides in the battle to always educate every person. I so much appreciate the unanimous support of the Labor and Human Resources Committee and the confidence of the Senate. I'm grateful for their expeditious handling of my nomination. And I wish to express thanks to the many people that guided us and assisted us through the confirmation process. There were very many of them, and we deeply appreciate what you did. My sincerest thanks and love to my wife Peggy and to our 10 children and their spouses. One of our grandsons is here. The other two couldn't make it; they're only 2 and 3 years old. And all of our family -- most of them are here with us today.

 

This journey in education started in 1949, when I was a teaching assistant. Over the years, the support and confidence and love of my family has sustained me and has helped me. And I would not be here today, I'm convinced, if it were not for them and the support that they have given me, and on top of that, many, many others who are here in this room with us today who have contributed to my education, who've supported me in difficult times and who have encouraged me. There are many of you in this room, and I'd like to thank each one of you personally.

 

And lastly, the work ahead for us is truly enormous. We must awaken America to renew its commitment to education. We must all work together -- all of us work together. We must care for every person -- the highly motivated achieving child, the undereducated, the dropout, the illiterate, and the handicapped. All persons, majority and minority, must reach their fullest level of potential, of education, so that they will become in turn responsible citizens, and in this manner they will contribute to the greatness of America.

 

Mr. President, I look forward to working with you in the days ahead in what I consider perhaps the most important mission of this nation -- this effort in education. Thank you for your confidence, sir.

 

Note: The President spoke at 2:24 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.