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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Transcript of Secretary Solis' Swearing-In Ceremony

Vice President Joe Biden:
You can keep clapping.

[laughter]

I’m only joking. Only joking.

I can only say that at the Labor Department.

I’m only joking.

I just wanted Tom Harkin to clap for me.

Senator, welcome Mr. Chairman.

Great to see you and so many distinguished guests that are here today to celebrate along with me and others, the return of the Department of Labor.

[applause]

Pamela Langley, thank you for the pledge and Lisa, thank you for the National Anthem.

You have a beautiful voice.

Folks, I got a chance to spend a little time with Sam [Sayyad] upstairs and I told Sam I wanted to thank him, too, and I mean it sincerely because the spouses of people who take on these jobs that are particularly consuming - and this will be an all-consuming job - we appreciate it.

Thank you very much.

Anna and Leticia, as we were walking out - I’m going to embarrass you, Hilda - or as you said, quote, "embarrass your little sisters" - she said, "You know? Did they tell you they are both engineers? They are the smartest ones in the family."

[Laughter]

And welcome to all of you.

Thank you all for being here.

It would be hard to look around at all the people and all the energy in this room and not see something special that’s happening here.

Maybe it’s because we have a Secretary of State who understands.

Maybe it’s because we have a Secretary of Labor who understands.

By the way, that wasn’t an accident.

We have two very, very, very accomplished women taking over the most important international job and the most important domestic job that are underway here.

Areas that have not had the kind of attention they’ve gotten before.

Maybe it is because Secretary Solis - or soon to be - has worked so hard.

Maybe it’s because we have a Secretary of Labor who has not only, is not only willing, but has demonstrated that she’s willing to fight.

Maybe it’s because we have a Secretary that we know.

Someone you’ve all seen her track record, you’ve seen what she’s done before she got to the Congress and since she’s been in the Congress.

I could ask her colleagues in the Congress and they could easily testify to her capability, to her sincerity, to her willingness to fight, to her leadership.

Do we have any doubt, does anybody doubt, that Hilda Solis understands the job she’s about to take over? And folks, that’s a big, big, big deal.

[applause]

Hilda is the daughter of blue collar union members, both her mother and her father.

[applause]

She knows how hard people work.

She knows how tough things can be.

She’s one of seven siblings and she didn’t just accidentally get here.

She did her part.

She did her part like everybody in big families that struggle do.

Things like fairness in the workplace and workplace safety are not just idle phrases that are to be debated in Hilda’s mind.

They’re real. They affect real, live people.

They’re real concerns that people face every single day.

She knows that a job is more than about a paycheck.

My friends from Labor have heard me say this before, but maybe it’s because of the way I was raised - the experience with my father and my grandfather - but a job is more than a paycheck.

A job is about dignity. A job is about respect.

Hilda understands that. She understands that.

[applause] And I don’t think anybody in this room has any doubt that Hilda Solis will be heard.

When she was in the state legislature, when it came to domestic violence, to health care, to education, she was heard.

When she held hearings on sweatshops, she was heard.

When she fought to protect low-income and minority communities from landfills and pollution and environmental hazards, she was heard.

And in Congress, when she stood up, she stood up to level the playing field for workers who wanted to organize, she was heard.

[applause] When she said the economy of the future would be built on green jobs, cosponsoring the Green Jobs Act of 2007, the first federal initiative of its kind, Hilda was heard.

Hilda Solis will demand to be heard.

Ladies and gentlemen, why do I repeat that phrase? We have not heard much from this department in a long time.

[laughter and applause] She will be heard.

Any of you who know her, don’t be put off by this lovely demeanor.

This is one heck of a fighter.

You know, the President kids with me and says, "Everybody knows, don’t mess with Joe." Well, don’t mess with Hilda.

She’s prepared to fight.

She knows what it takes to get things done.

Listen to the language that described her when she was given - which few people have as you know, my colleagues in this room - the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

The first woman, I might add, to be so recognized.

[applause] The award said she was being given this award for being a politician who - and I quote - "hasn’t shied away from challenging the old boy network."

Well, ladies and gentlemen, she hasn’t shied away from challenging any network - old boy, young girl - it doesn’t matter.

And I really want to get this point across to the people who may be listening to this.

This is a woman of great integrity.

She’s proven it time and again.

When it comes to standing up for those who are in the workplace everyday - for their health, their safety, for fair treatment - she’s always there.

When it comes to standing up for healthcare to protect families, she’s always been there to fight for them.

When it comes to retirement security she has fought and will continue to fight for people.

And when it comes to standing up against job discrimination, she will have none of it.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to standing up for expanding this economy for all people, no one is going to be a stronger voice than the new Secretary of Labor.

Hilda Solis will fight.

Today we can all be proud that this daughter of union members is now America’s most forceful advocate for working men and women in this country.

So Madame Secretary, congratulations to you and your family and would you please step forward and give me the honor of administering the oath?

[applause]

Would you please raise your right hand?

I

Secretary Solis:
I, Hilda Solis.

Vice President Joe Biden:
do solemnly swear

Secretary Solis:
do solemnly swear

Vice President Joe Biden:
that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States

Secretary Solis:
that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States

Vice President Joe Biden:
against all enemies, foreign and domestic;

Secretary Solis:
against all enemies, foreign and domestic;

Vice President Joe Biden:
that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

Secretary Solis:
that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

Vice President Joe Biden;
that I take this obligation freely

Secretary Solis:
that I take this obligation freely

Vice President Joe Biden:
without mental reservation or purpose of evasion;

Secretary Solis:
without mental reservation or purpose of evasion;

Vice President Joe Biden:
and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties

Secretary Solis:
and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties

Vice President Joe Biden:
of the office on which I am about to enter.

Secretary Solis:
of the office on which I am about to enter.

Vice President Joe Biden;
So help me God.

Secretary Solis:
So help me God.

[applause]

Thank you. Buenos Dias.

I would like to thank Vice President Biden for coming to the Department of Labor and being part of this very, very historic occasion.

I can’t think of a more fitting person to administer the oath of office to a new Labor Secretary on a new day for America’s Department of Labor.

Growing up, the Vice President and I came from very different neighborhoods in very different states.

But both of our parents believed in a better future for their children, and in their own ways, they lived the American Dream.

It says a lot about our country that we’re both here on this stage today before you.

I want to thank both President Obama and Vice President Biden for asking me to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

[applause]

I’m honored and humbled, but most importantly, I am energized by their support and their encouragement.

And today, I am more eager than ever to serve the American people and to lead the Department in creating opportunities for hard-working families to achieve the American Dream.

I want to thank my parents and my family, who are here today with me: my husband Sam and my sisters, and my family members whose support and love and guidance have brought me to this day.

Como hija de immigrates, estoy muy orgullosa de ser la primera Latina elegía como Secretaria de Trabajo.

Pero esto no hubiera sido posible sin en gran apoyo de mis padres Raúl y Juana Solís.

Y a ellos les dio las gracias!

Many of my former colleagues from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are here and I want to tell you how blessed I am to have all of you here and how meaningful it is to see you.

All of you are leaders for me and have been and I thank you for being here.

[applause]

I see my friends in labor, I see my friends from my past life doing different things and I say thank you for being here, as well.

Thank you so much for your encouragement and strong advice and your friendship.

Let me also extend my thanks to the union leaders who have joined us this morning.

Thank you brothers and sisters for being here with me.

It’s a pleasure to have you here and let me say publically and personally, and without reservation: You are a very, very important part of what I will be doing in the next few years.

And to the Department of Labor, my colleagues here - the best team in the entire Federal system - to all of you in the hall, all of you watching live at your desks - here in the building, across town and across the country, let me say this to each and every one of you: I appreciate the work that you do.

I value the work that you do.

Most of all: I respect the work that you do.

[applause]

I have traveled an extraordinary journey to get to this moment.

To be the Nation’s 25th Secretary of Labor and the first Latina to hold this position.

My vision for the Department is rooted in who I am.

My father worked hard as a union shop steward in a battery recycling plant for over 25 years.

His membership in the union helped my family have health and other benefits, in hard times.

My mother emigrated to this country from Central America - Nicaragua.

She was a stay at home mom for most of her life while I was growing up, but later on she, too, had to go into the workforce.

She worked in a local toy factory where she was also part of a union.

I was raised in a small town called La Puente, California.

And I represented and grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, representing, also, parts of East Los Angeles.

It was there I learned from a young age the value of hard work, public service, and commitment to family.

I am proud to have been the first of my 6 brothers and sisters to graduate from college.

I am very proud of my family, including my 2 sisters who are here with me who are both engineers and my sister who couldn’t be with me here today.

She is in Los Angeles.

She made me proud when she received her PhD in Public Health.

I could not have gone to college without the help of those who fought for our civil rights and the right for underrepresented people to attend the university.

And I want to underscore how important the financial aid - the federal financial aid - system was and is today.

And how important the Pell grant, the guaranteed student loans, work study programs, all those programs, that helped me get my education and I know those programs continue to help provide the support for so many million, million of Americans.

Before I became a public official, I worked also as a Director of a student opportunity access program to help other underrepresented students prepare for college as I did.

I also served as a board member of a community college and I had the opportunity to implement workforce training programs, something I feel very passionate about.

In 1992 I was elected to serve in the California State Assembly and in 1994 I became the first Latina in California to become a State Senator.

I am proud to have served the people - the proud people - of California in the 32nd Congressional District for the last 8 years and thank them for their confidence and support.

So many experiences have helped to shape my life to prepare me for this moment.

I have visited fields and factories.

I have even walked picket lines.

[applause]

And I have talked to and listened to not just those who work in offices during the day, but also those who clean the offices at night.

Many people have educated me, mentored me, and inspired me: From Martin Luther King Jr., who sparked my deep commitment to civil and human rights, to Cesar Chavez, who inspired the world with simply saying: "Si Se Puede!"

I am a product - and I’m proud of this - of the women’s movement, the labor movement, the environmental movement and the social justice movement.

[applause]

And the fact that I am standing before you today as a child of an immigrant family, a working family, is proof that in America, anything is possible.

Now more than ever we need to work together to ensure that all Americans have the same opportunities that I had.

I’d like to talk very briefly about my vision for the department.

First, in a time of economic crisis, giving Americans the tools they need to find and keep good jobs must be our priority.

Now more than ever, we must help workers by prioritizing job training and assistance.

Retooling our work force not only helps workers, but supports high growth industries by ensuring they have the adequate skills that workers need.

I intend to work closely with the President, the Vice President, the Cabinet, and all of you to re-invest in and restructure workforce development and ensure a strong unemployment insurance system.

This includes promoting "green-collar jobs" - which will provide economic security for our middle-class families while reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels.

And with Vice President Biden leading the charge on the recovery efforts, that’s exactly what we’ll do.

Second, the Labor Department must ensure that American workers are paid what they deserve, are treated fairly and have safe and healthy workplaces.

We will accomplish this through tough enforcement, transparency, cooperation and balance.

To those who have, for far too long, abused workers, put them in harm’s way, denied them fair pay, let me be clear: There is a new sheriff in town.

[applause]

Third, the crisis in retirement security demands action now.

We must expand retirement savings, ensure that existing pension plans are solvent, and provide retirees and workers with the information they need to make good decisions about how to invest for their retirement.

And finally, the Labor Department must assure that the door to opportunity is open to every American.

I will work to ensure that our sons and daughters returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - like Pam Langley, who led us in the Pledge of Allegiance - are provided with the needed assistance they deserve, including job training and re-employment assistance.

[applause]

On the battlefields of war, our soldiers pledge to leave no one behind.

We must pledge to leave no veteran behind.

Through these and other efforts, we can help strengthen America's greatest assets - its human resources.

During my first week as Labor Secretary, I had the portrait of Frances Perkins, who was President Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor, hung in the lobby of my office.

On Wednesday, I had the great privilege to stand with President Obama as he signed the Executive Order creating the White House Office on Women and Girls.

It was fitting - and very satisfying for me - that in his remarks, the President quoted Secretary Perkins, the first woman cabinet member.

Secretary Perkins once said, the best advice she said she ever got was from her grandmother, who told her, "Whenever a door opens for you, you have no choice but to walk through it."

[applause]

Today, I’m proud to walk through that door.

And this administration led by the first African American President and my dear friend Joe Biden, will open up those new doors for all Americans - doors to new economic opportunities for working-class families, and new dreams for our children and our grandchildren.

I’m excited to be a part of this historic team, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to serve the American people.

Let’s get to work.

I thank all of you for coming here this morning.

Thank you.