Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff at
a Welcome Ceremony With Employees
— Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate everybody turning out on
such a kind of nasty day to welcome me to this great Department.
I guess I’ve been Secretary for a little less than 24 hours, and
I’ve gotten an extraordinary reception from people in all parts
of the Department. And I am really proud to join you in serving
the American people.
this before, but it means a lot to me and I want to say it again.
I have had the occasion in the last five weeks, since the President
announced his intent to nominate me, to travel back and forth
from New Jersey by train to be in various restaurants and public
places and to have people come up to me to congratulate me but
also to thank me for joining the Department of Homeland Security,
because they think the work of this Department is so important,
that the people who serve here are doing maybe the most important
job in government, which is protecting their families and their
been in a number of different government jobs, I have to say I’ve
never experienced the sense of public ownership that I experienced
since I’ve become the nominee for this Department. And I think
it’s a tribute to the important work that you do and the service
that you render that people feel that way.
you know, I’ve taken the oath of office to serve in various government
jobs on a number of occasions. One occasion I remember in particular
goes back almost 25 years when I started out in my first entry-level
job as a young assistant United States attorney in Manhattan.
And it was really the fulfillment of a dream I had as a young
lawyer to be able to serve the public in a job which was very
important. And I vividly remember how important it was to me on
that day to join a company of men and women who were doing extraordinary
work to protect the American public.
And I still
carry that vision of what public service is within me as I join
you today, because I think each and every one of you, by being
here, have had the same sensation that I had then, that there’s
nothing you can do professionally that is more important than
serving the United States.
I also know
that in the wake of September 11th, the job of protecting the
homeland has taken on an urgency as never before. All of us were
touched by September 11th. Some of us lost loved ones and friends.
All of us saw the devastation that was inflicted on the American
public, and we experience to this day the consequences of that.
When I look
out among you, I know all you agree with me and believe as I do
that the most important thing we do in our jobs each day is to
work as hard as we can to prevent something from that from ever
happening again. And I am, therefore, proud and privileged to
join you in serving in this great Department to achieve that very
important public purpose.
I have to
pay tribute to some individuals, as well as to all of you collectively.
First of all, Secretary Tom Ridge, who took on the very difficult
task of leading the Department at birth, really has done a superb
job in setting the tone and making it very difficult for me, actually,
to fill his shoes. And to the extent I’m able to achieve anything
during my tenure, it will be because I stand on the shoulders
of Tom Ridge and get the benefit of what he accomplished.
I want to
recognize Admiral Jim Loy, who has dedicated more than 40 years
to a career in public service and has been outstanding in every
one of those jobs. It’s really an inspiration to be able to work
with him as we overlap during these weeks. He brings a tremendous
spirit, as well as tremendous knowledge to the job.
want to thank all of the people who aided me in this transition.
You have all been tremendous in trying to get me up to speed quickly
through the process of learning about the Department in anticipation
of my hearings, and now on my first day on the job.
I hope that
I get to work with each and every one of you. I am going to be
looking to learn from you. I want to hear your experiences, your
observations, and your ideas for how we can make this Department
I know we
have done a lot. I know there’s a lot more to do. But I do know
that the one thing that distinguishes this Department is the spirit
of the people who serve within it, and the goodwill and prayers
of everybody in the American public who wishes us the best. And
so when sometimes we get tired or frustrated or impatient, I think
the thing that I will bear in mind is that we have a tremendous
responsibility and a tremendous privilege, and every day we can
carry that out is a day that we can feel we’ve done a job very
appreciate again your turning out for this. It is a great privilege
for me to stand here and say hello to each of you, and I look
forward to seeing you and working with you again in the days and
weeks to come. Thank you very much