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The Vice President’s Ceremonial Office

3:26 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  It is my great privilege on behalf of the First Family to say, welcome to the White House.  And welcome to the swearing-in of the 20th Surgeon General of the United States of America, Doctor Jerome Adams.  (Applause.)

It is a great privilege for me to be with you today to serve in this role.  It’s a great personal honor for me, as I’ll reflect in a moment, having seen the quality of this physician, this public servant, this fellow Hoosier.  (Applause.)  Today has special meaning to me, as I know it does to President Trump.

We’re joined also today not only by Dr. Adams, but by his wonderful family.  Would you join me in welcoming his wonderful wife, Lacey, and their — kids Caden, Eli, and Millie — who are with us today?  (Applause.)  And his proud parents, Richard and Edrena Adams, are with us today from nearby Maryland.  (Applause.)  And his equally proud in-laws, Ked and Shelley Ringger, are with us today.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  And what’s the nephew’s name?  Everybody give Jalen (ph) a round of applause.  (Applause.)  Thanks, Jalen.

It’s also a special honor to be joined by some very distinguished public servants whose presence here today speaks about their respect for Dr. Adams as our new Surgeon General, and the importance that they place on the role that he will play in the life of the nation.  I’m grateful that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary and Dr. Tom Price, is with us.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  The Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, is with us.  Seema, thank you so much for coming.  (Applause.)  The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, is with us today.  Dr. Fitzgerald, thank you.  (Applause.)  And we’re greatly honored to be joined by a senator from the state of Indiana, Senator Todd Young.  Thank you for being with us today.  (Applause.)

There are many distinguished guests and public servants who are in the room.  I know it means a great deal to the President and to Dr. Adams and his family that you’re with us today.

I also want to acknowledge the presence of leading representatives of our medical community.  Represented today is the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Association of Anesthesiologists, and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers.  Your presence here today is a testament to Dr. Adams’ well-deserved reputation in the medical profession and your enthusiasm for the President’s decision to name him our newest Surgeon General.  Thank you for your presence.  (Applause.)

President Donald Trump is committed — he’s committed to the health and well-being of the people of the United States of America.  Today, America faces a number of urgent health challenges from the scourge of opioid abuse, infectious diseases, to the health threats arising from the devastating hurricane that beset our neighbors and friends in Texas just a little more than a week ago.  The President is committed to tackling these challenges head on — which is why the President has sought out America’s most talented doctors and medical professionals to lead our health agencies.  And now Dr. Jerome Adams will join them as Surgeon General of the United States.

Dr. Jerome Adams is highly qualified not just to serve, but to succeed on behalf of the American people.  He’s distinguished himself as an anesthesiologist at Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis, which serves some of our most vulnerable citizens, with some of the highest quality care in the country, and as a clinical associate professor of anesthesiology at Indiana University.

As I saw firsthand, Dr. Jerome Adams has an extraordinary gift for empathy, and he brought that gift to his years in public service.  When I was governor of state of Indiana, it was my privilege to appoint him as the state health commissioner.  And he would go on to serve my successor and two administrations in that role with great distinction.

While I was governor, Dr. Adams dealt with many issues, including his efforts to reduce infant mortality through what he called the Labor of Love campaign that impacted the lives of innocent children and families.

In fact, he was only two days on the job when the nation was gripped with great anxiety over the Ebola virus.  And it was Dr. Jerome Adams who stepped forward as our state’s health commissioner, calmed the waters in Indiana and ensured that our citizens and our healthcare professionals had the information that they need.

In fact, Indiana was the location of the very first case of the MERS virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.  The very first case in the United States was reported in northwest Indiana, and Dr. Adams worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control in the midst of that and prevented the deadly outbreak from spreading beyond the initial patient.

And during his tenure and mine, Indiana was rocked by the worst opioid-fueled-HIV epidemic ever to hit rural America.  And as we confronted this crisis, it was Dr. Adams who led from the front, who provided me and my team with expert advice.  And I saw that empathy for which he is so widely known when he worked directly with the citizens who had been infected, worked with the CDC, and brought the widest range of resources, policies, and care to stem that epidemic affecting that community.

Through these efforts, and more, Dr. Adams’ intellect, experience helped improve the health and well-being of the people of Indiana.  And the people of my home state will always be in your debt.

But, Jerome, the good people of Indiana will miss you because your President and the American people need you as our new Surgeon General of the United States.  (Applause.)

And President Trump and I are confident that your leadership, your integrity, your empathy and compassion, and your values will help bring hope and healing to people all across this country.

And so, on behalf of President Donald Trump, it is my great privilege to administer to you the oath of office.

(The oath is administered.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my great privilege to introduce to you the 20th Surgeon General of the United States of America, Dr. Jerome Adams.  (Applause.)

DR. ADAMS:  Well, I’d like to start off by saying my thoughts and prayers are with the people who are dealing with the consequences of Hurricane Harvey, both the victims who have lost so much and all the brave Americans who are selflessly helping their fellow man, woman, and child.

I am extraordinarily thankful to the President for his leadership in this time of crisis, and I’m anxious to get started so I can join the United States Public Health Corps and other governmental entities to rescue, rehabilitate, and rebuild.

Thank you very much, President Trump and Secretary Price, for having the faith in me to take on this task.  And thank you for giving me this truly amazing opportunity to serve the people of our great country.

A special thanks to a great mentor and friend, Vice President Pence.  Thank you so much.

Those of you who’ve watched my confirmation hearing know that one of the recurring themes I brought up was partnerships. I want to tell you a quick story about my shared history with the Vice President that illustrates the power of our partnership to positively affect millions of people in the state of Indiana.

Now, I’ve been told that when the Vice President, as then-governor of Indiana, was vetting me to be his state health commissioner, he commented, well, he’s qualified, but gosh, he seems young.  (Laughter.)

Someone said to him, but, Governor, he’s 40.  To which the Governor then replied, but he’s a really young-looking 40.  (Laughter.)

I take that as a great compliment, especially because I’ve got the hairdo of someone much older.  (Laughter.)  But the reality is initially he had some concerns about my ability to take on such a big role.

The Vice President has always been willing, however, to give people a chance to prove themselves.  We had an extraordinarily diverse cabinet when he was governor, and he took a chance on this young, African American guy from the East Coast to be his health commissioner.  And I thank you for that.  (Applause.)

Now here’s the other side of the story.  I had my doubts about working for him also, to be honest.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t know a lot about then-Governor Pence.  But the rumor was he was old school — and not like the pop culture old school that the kids talk about, but older-super-conservative-from-southern-Indiana old school.  I was worried about being able to relate to someone who was from such a different background than I was in all sorts of ways — and someone who had so much hair than what I did.  (Laughter.)

The one good thing is he’s got the same hair as my dad, so that helped me trust him just a little bit more.  (Laughter.)

But the point is, neither of us let those initial reservations get in the way of a discussion and a relationship.  Together we dealt with the HIV crisis, successfully rolled out Indiana’s state-based, consumer-driven alternative to Medicaid expansion — thank you, Seema, so much for your work with that — and worked with the state legislature to secure over $10 million to combat infant mortality in our state.

If the two of us could do that by working together and begin to have a positive influence on several health trends in our state, just imagine what all of us — all of the people in this room, all of the people in this country — could do if we simply would commit to not judging people, commit to coming together, commit to doing what we know is right in order to improve the health of the people of our country.  (Applause.)

There’s a great saying that bears worth repeating:  Nobody is going to care what you know until they know that you care.

Nobody I’ve met is better at letting people know they care than Vice President Pence.  I’ve tried to watch him.  I’ve tried to listen to him, and I’ve tried to truly care about others as I’ve seen him do over the past several years of our relationship.  And that’s why my motto as Surgeon General is going to be:  better health through better partnerships — and why these partnerships will include people we traditionally have not thought of when we think about health.

I completely agree with Secretary Price in his decision to focus on the opioid epidemic, mental health, and childhood obesity as top priorities.  And I think better health through better partnerships, particularly with the business and law enforcement communities will help us address those priorities and many other health and wellness concerns.

And speaking of partnerships, I want to close by thanking some very important partners who came to support me today.  My friend and CMS Director Seema Verma, thank you so much for being here.  Together we’re committed to delivering higher quality healthcare at a lower cost through patient engagement and better prevention.

I’m also happy to see former Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller in the crowd.  Greg, raise your hand so everybody knows who you are.  (Applause.)  And current Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.  (Applause.)

Now you might get a little worried when you see two attorneys general following me around.  (Laughter.)  But the reality is one of the things I’ve consistently preached and I hope to continue to advocate is the need for better partnerships between the law enforcement and health communities if we’re going to tackle this opioid epidemic.

We cannot continue to keep viewing interventions as either being too hard on individuals with a legitimate disease, or too soft on people who’ve committed real crimes.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Director of CDC, and Gerald Harmon, board chair of the American Medical Association, are also here.  Leaders from the American Public Health Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officers, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, as Vice President Pence named, are also here and all deserve recognition.

President Trump and Vice President Pence, it occurred to me, you’ve got leaders in health science, prevention.  You’ve got law enforcement here.  You’ve got state health officials who are charged with carrying out these tasks on a state level.  I think we should just order dinner, lock the doors, and we’ll get all this stuff solved in a few days.  (Laughter and applause.)

I’d like to thank acting Surgeon General Admiral Trent-Adams, Admiral Hunter, and Commander Collins for being here to represent the United States Public Health Service Corps.  The Corps is America’s health army — 6,500 highly qualified and dedicated uniformed officers committed to being America’s health army, keeping our country healthy and prosperous.  I couldn’t be more proud of the Health Corps members who are helping with the Hurricane Harvey response.

And I’d like to thank all my family and friends who are here, including my father, Richard; my mother, Edrena; and my sister, Latoya (ph).  Where are you, Latoya?  And my three children — Caden, Eli, and Millie.  (Laughter and applause.)

Vice President Pence, I’ve also got a whole lot of nieces and nephews out here who are anxious for a selfie with you.  (Applause.)

Finally, I’d like to finish by doing something I’ve observed the Vice President do many times, I saved my last and my most heartfelt thanks for the person who gives me constant guidance and support, the person who keeps my family running and my life running while I’m off trying to save the world, the person who has been at my side for the good and the bad over the last 20 years, my lovely wife, Lacey.  (Applause.)

Thank you again to President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary Price for giving me this tremendous opportunity.  I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working to deliver to our country better health through better partnerships.  I promise the American people that I am committed to letting the science lead me and to facilitating locally led solutions to our most difficult health problems.

I promise you, the American people, that if you’re willing to partner, I’m willing to go along with you and to help bring other folks to the table.

To borrow a phrase from our President, let’s all work together to make American health great again.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

3:43 P.M. EDT