Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President and Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker During Swearing-in Ceremony

June 26, 2001

THE PRESIDENT: Senator Baker, you've drawn quite a crowd here to the White House. (Laughter.) Mr. Vice President, Mr. Secretary, CIA Director George Tenet, I believe is here. Justice O'Connor is here, thank you so much for coming. The Ambassador from Japan is here, thank you very much for being here, Mr. Ambassador, and your lovely wife.

Madeleine Albright, I believe is here - Madame Secretary. Larry Eagleburger is here. Elizabeth Dole, I believe is here. Senator. Elizabeth, thank you very much. The former Ambassadors to the country of Japan are on the stage with us, they have been introduced. Members of the United States Senate are here. Members of the Tennessee congressional delegation are here.

Thank you all for coming, and welcome. Today, we call upon one of America's most valued statesmen to help be the keeper of one of America's most valued friendships. Howard Baker has held many titles during the course of his long and distinguished career. They include sailor, senator, Minority Leader, Majority Leader and White House Chief of Staff.

In a few moments, he'll add "ambassador" to that list. And, once again, America is very grateful. (Applause.)

All the former ambassadors here are living examples of the very highest standards of diplomatic excellence. And between them, Mike Mansfield, Walter Mondale, Tom Foley and Howard Baker have accumulated over a hundred years of elected office. (Laughter.) That's a lot of balloon drops. (Laughter.)

Thirty-four of those years are accounted for by Mike Mansfield alone. The senator began the tradition of high-level political figures serving as our Ambassador to Japan. He held that post for more than 11 years, longer than anyone else. Japanese press calls these figures "o-mono" - the big guys. (Laughter.) Well, we're all very honored to have the original big guy with us.

And by the way, Senator Thurmond, he informed me - with quite clear language - that he is four months younger than you are. (Laughter.)

We send the very best people to Japan because the United States has no more important partner in the world than Japan. Our alliance is rooted in the vital strategic and economic interests that we share. It is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in Asia. And today this partnership is helping us tackle global problems, as well.

I'm looking forward to welcoming the Prime Minister this weekend at Camp David. Together, we will explore ways we can continue to strengthen our security relationship. We will talk about the Prime Minister's agenda for reforming and revitalizing the Japanese economy. We'll discuss how our countries can work together on realistic and effective responses to global problems such as AIDS in Africa and climate change.

I will also tell the Prime Minister that America's thirty-eighth Ambassador to Japan is a man of extraordinary ability, grace and good humor. In every post he has held, Howard Baker has brought uncommon intelligence and an uncanny ability to calm the ship of state, even in days of crisis.

He comes from good stock. His grandmother, Lillie "Mother Ladd" Mauser - (laughter) - was Tennessee's first woman sheriff. (Laughter.) His father and his step-mother both served in the House. He married into good stock, as well. He counts Senator Everett Dirksen and the grand old man of the Grand Old Party, Alf Landon, as fathers-in-law. And what the Prime Minister is going to find out, he took an extraordinary woman as a bride, in Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker. (Applause.)

In the Senate, Howard Baker had a list of rules for being an effective senator. He called it the Baker's Dozen. The list included: listen more often than you speak; be patient; tell the truth, whether you have to or not; and, finally, be civil and encourage others to do the same.

Well, these rules help explain why Howard Baker has made such a mark on American history. They are why he's going to keep making his mark for the years to come. Congratulations.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Thank you, sir. (Applause.)

(Ambassador-designate Baker was sworn in.) (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Mr. President, Secretary Powell, Ambassadors, my former colleagues in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, ladies and gentlemen, this is truly an overwhelming experience and I am grateful. I am happy to be here, Mr. President, to speak for this country and to speak for you in Japan.

I have conferred with you, with the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Vice President, many others in your Cabinet and this government, many in the Congress. I understand my responsibility and I will discharge it.

I understand, as well, that there is a special, unique relationship that exists between the United States and Japan. It is remarkable, indeed, that given our history and relationship that Japan and the United States would develop this strong bond, this mutuality of respect, this shared common view of the necessity for peace in the world.

My friend, Mike Mansfield, and one of my predecessors in this office, was fond of saying the bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan is the most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none. And I always wondered, Mr. Ambassador, how "bar none" got translated into Japanese. (Laughter.)

But Mike Mansfield, I agree with you, it is indeed the most important bilateral relationship, at least in my life and in my career, and it will continue to be. It is the cornerstone of our policy, not only in Japan but in Asia, as well, and throughout the world.

Mr. President, I am grateful to you for giving us this opportunity. I am grateful to you, Secretary Powell, for giving me the chance to serve with you once again. I am glad for all of those who helped us navigate the rocks and shoals of confirmation, of filling out 86 pages of forms - (laughter) -- of transiting the requirements of the Office of Government Ethics - (laughter) - of the survival of our marriage - (laughter). More than once, Nancy would point out to me or I would point out to her, this too will pass. (Laughter.)

But, my friends, I could not do this without Nancy at my side, and together we will be a partnership to speak for this nation, to make our contribution to that relationship and to the peace of the world.

Mr. President, I thank you, sir. (Applause.)