5:43 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much everybody. We have a very important moment in our country’s history, actually. And we had a lot of our great Republican senators in the White House, and I invited them over and many of them wanted to be here. And as you probably heard, the vote just took place, and it was 90 to 8. That’s a vote that we’re not accustomed to, Mark, I have to say that. So congratulations, that’s great.
But I’m honored to be here today for the swearing-in of our new Secretary of Defense, Mark T. Esper. I especially want to thank Justice Samuel Alito — highly respected and a great gentleman, a great man — for joining us to administer the Oath of Office. Thank you very much. Thank you, Sam.
We’re also delighted to welcome several of Secretary Esper’s family members and friends to the White House today, including his mother, Polly. Hi, Polly. (Laughter.) Boy, are you proud of him, Polly? You better believe it. Yeah. (Laughter.) His wife, Leah. Thank you, Leah, very much. And his three children — Luke, John, and Kathryn. Thank you very much. Congratulations, too, most importantly. Congratulations. That’s an incredible thing.
There is no one more qualified to lead the Department of Defense than Mark Esper. A West Point graduate — great student, actually — Secretary Esper served our military for 21 years, including in the Gulf War. He also advanced U.S. national security in government and in private sector, most recently as Secretary of the Army, where he played a critical role training and equipping our armed forces. That’s where I got to know Mark. And there was nobody that did a better job than Mark and there’s nobody that loves it more than Mark. And thank you very much.
He is a recipient of the Bronze Star and Combat Infantryman Badge. He holds a doctorate in public policy from George Washington University and a master of public administration degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
I am confident that he will be an outstanding Secretary of Defense. I have absolutely no doubt about it. He is outstanding in every way. And we’re honored to have you aboard. And I would ask Justice Alito, please, to administer the Oath of Office. Thank you. Thank you, Judge.
(The oath is administered.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Would you like to say something?
SECRETARY ESPER: Yes, sir, if I may.
THE PRESIDENT: Please.
SECRETARY ESPER: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your kind words, for your confidence in me, and for this incredible opportunity. And thank you, Justice Alito, for administering the Oath of Office. I really appreciate you being here this afternoon.
I’d also like to Senate — to thank the Senate Armed Services Committee for its quick action on my nomination and for the strong bipartisan support that I received today from the entire United States Senate.
It is an honor of a lifetime to be appointed Secretary of Defense and to lead the greatest military in history. And I will do so with that same energy and commitment to duty, honor, and country that I have for nearly four decades since my early days at West Point.
Mr. President, it is a privilege for me and for my family to be here with you today. Thank you for your leadership and for your commitment to a strong national defense and to all of our service members. Our military has made tremendous gains in recent years thanks to your leadership and we stand ready today to take on any challenge.
And while our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines stand guard each and every day, we will ensure their families are well taken care of.
On a personal note, I would like to thank my wife, Leah, who has been by my side now for 30 years as a military spouse herself; my children, Luke, John, and Kate; my mother, Polly; my in-laws, Tom and Von; and my sisters who join me here today. And everybody else who has been a steadfast supporter of me over the years.
Again, thank you, Mr. President, for allowing me to serve our great country once again, as Secretary of Defense. Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mark. Congratulations.
SECRETARY ESPER: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. Proud of you. Come on over here.
SECRETARY ESPER: Okay. Leah?
(A certificate is presented.)
THE PRESIDENT: He’s going to be a great one. Thank you very much.
5:50 P.M. EDT