Dec 16, 2020
Joe Biden Announces Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation Transcript December 16
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris announced Pete Buttigieg as their pick for Transportation Secretary on December 16. Read the transcript of Biden and Buttigieg’s speeches here.
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Joe Biden: (00:01)
Well, good afternoon by three minutes. Good to see you all. Over the past few weeks, Vice President-Elect Harris and I have been announcing nominees to our cabinet. They are people of the highest character, varied experiences and backgrounds who are going to help us beat this pandemic, keep us safe and secure, and build our economy back better than it ever was.
Joe Biden: (00:26)
They included long time colleagues, and new faces, a new voices. They include people who share my views, and those who have different views. They include people who supported my campaign from its earliest days, and people who ran against me. They’re experts in policy, leaders tested by crises, and by the end of this process, this cabinet will be the most representative of any cabinet in American history.
Joe Biden: (00:52)
We’ll have more people of color than any cabinet ever, we’ll have more women than any cabinet ever. We’ll have a cabinet of barrier breakers, a cabinet of firsts. I know how proud presidents are when they’re able to achieve a first in their cabinet.
Joe Biden: (01:07)
I remember when President Clinton named the first ever woman to be Secretary of State. I was there when President Obama named the first ever black Attorney General. But compared to my predecessors, the Harris-Biden cabinet is first among cabinets of all the firsts it represents. The first ever woman, the first black woman, the first woman with South Asian descent as vice-president, behind me on the screen, the first ever black Secretary of Defense, the first ever Latino head of the DHS, and the first ever Latino head of HHS. The first woman of South Asian American descent to lead OMB, the first woman and Asian American to lead the United States Trade Represent, as our lead United States trade representative. The first black woman to chair the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, the first ever woman to hold Alexander Hamilton’s position as Treasury Secretary. Our cabinet doesn’t just have one first, or just two of these firsts, but eight precedent-busting appointments.
Joe Biden: (02:17)
And today a nine, the first ever openly gay nominee to lead a cabinet department, and one of the youngest cabinet members ever. The Biden-Harris cabinet will be an historic cabinet, a cabinet that looks like America, a cabinet that taps into the best of America, a cabinet that is opening doors and breaking down barriers and accessing the full range of talent, we have so much of it, the full range of talent in this nation. A cabinet that is up to the immediate crises we face, and we face several.
Joe Biden: (02:52)
And the long-term challenges this nation faces in the future are in this cabinet’s hands. It’s a cabinet that’s battle-tested, qualified, experienced, creative, innovative, and forward-looking, and yes, representative. And today I’m proud to nominate its newest member, for Secretary of Transportation, I nominate Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Joe Biden: (03:16)
I got to know Pete on the campaign trail. He’s one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet, and I’m one of the most humble; a mayor from the heartland, a management expert, a policy wonk with a big heart, a veteran, Lieutenant of the United States Navy Reserve, an intelligence officer, deployed to Afghanistan while he was mayor, a new voice with new ideas determined to move past old politics. The son of professors, his husband is an educator, always, always a mark of good character, that’s the way I look at it.
Joe Biden: (03:50)
And by the way, Jill and I have always enjoyed seeing Pete and Chasten together on the trail. Chasten has become a close friend of Jill’s and mine. And what I admire about Pete is he’s always clear about who he is, what he believes, and how he wants to bring people in, not exclude them. He’s able to walk into any room, and leave people inspired with his ability to describe an America that’s best for us, all of us, an America that’s hopeful, bold, creative, inclusive, an America that can do literally anything.
Joe Biden: (04:24)
The Department of Transportation services a critical mission, with a critical responsibilities, particularly in this administration. We need someone who knows how to work with state, local, and federal agencies. For example, right now, one in five miles of our highways are still in, “Poor condition,” according to the Society of American Engineers.
Joe Biden: (04:48)
Tens and tens of thousands of bridges are in disrepair, some on the verge of collapse, presenting a clear and present danger to people’s lives. We’re the world’s richest nation, but we rank 10th, we ranked 10th in overall quality of our infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum.
Joe Biden: (05:08)
But there’s so much we can do. When I think of climate change, I think about jobs, good paying union jobs, jobs to put Americans to work making their air cleaner for our kids to breathe, restoring our crumbling roads, bridges, and ports, making it faster, cheaper, and cleaner to transport American-made goods across the country and around the world.
Joe Biden: (05:32)
I know that when you were mayor Pete, when people would come in to try to decide where they’re going to build something here, they’d say, “Where’s the nearest railroad head? What about the water access? What about,” and so on.
Joe Biden: (05:44)
This is going to attract businesses, jobs that lay the lines for the second great railroad revolution, which not only will slash pollution, will slash commute times, open up investments in areas connected to metropolitan areas for the first time.
Joe Biden: (06:03)
We selected Pete for transportation because the department is at the intersection of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better. When President Obama put me in charge of implementing the Recovery Act, which was over $800 billion, to take us from crisis, to recovery, to resurgence, modernizing our transportation infrastructure, our roads, bridges, and ports, were some of our most critical investments. We invested more in infrastructure than any time since President Eisenhower and the interstate highway projects.
Joe Biden: (06:31)
They’re projects that traditionally receive bipartisan support, that forge public and private partnerships. When we do those public and private partnerships, and we invest federal money, we pull billions of dollars of private investment for every dollar we put in, federal dollar. And then put millions of Americans to work, strengthening our economy, our economic competitiveness, and rebuilding our communities for the future.
Joe Biden: (06:57)
Pete’s got a great perspective of a mayor that solves problems and brings people together. He’s got a vision of a next generation leader, and with experience, and the temperament to lead change today, today. To dig us out of this economic crisis.
Joe Biden: (07:14)
For example, helping cities and states to keep transit systems running for frontline and essential workers, and then helping them modernize their airports, their ports, their railways, to attract and retain businesses and workers, to advance racial equality, racial equity, as we build back better include everyone. So zip code doesn’t determine your access to a good job, a good school, a good education, and healthcare. To deal with the existential threat of climate change with real jobs, not just $15 an hour job, which I’m going to call for universally, but for prevailing wages, union jobs paying $45, $50 an hour, and benefits.
Joe Biden: (07:56)
Helping cities across the country in red states and blue states, red cities, and blue cities, to build more climate resilient communities to deal with more extreme floods, droughts, and super storms. Just look around the country today, what are we faced with?
Joe Biden: (08:12)
The West is burning. The Midwest is being flooded. The East Coast is being pummeled by more tornadoes and storms than it’s ever had. We’re in a state that’s three feet above sea level. All of us along the Atlantic Ocean find ourselves with problems in terms of flooding. Look, working with states, businesses, and labor to install 500,000 charging stations for the next generation of clean vehicles, smart grid system, reducing energy consumption, and ushering in a clean energy economy all across America.
Joe Biden: (08:48)
Some of you may remember I met with five leading CEOs in America, and five leading unions in America. And the president of General Motors, after our conversation, our joint conversation, picked up the phone and called, I’m told California and said they’re dropping their suit against California. They’re all in on making sure that we’re the first in the world to have, switch to, and be able to get to a carbon-neutral economic way to power automobiles as a consequence of dealing with electric vehicles.
Joe Biden: (09:24)
We can own the electric vehicle market. We can put, with those 500,000 charging stations, we can put a million jobs back in Detroit and in the Midwest, building cars.
Joe Biden: (09:35)
Pete’s going to also carry out the department’s duty to keep Americans safe on our roads, and our highways, and in our skies. Pete’s going to help build back better with jobs and hope, with vision and execution. And I’m honored, I’m honored he’s answering the call to serve his country once again. So please welcome, please welcome the next Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
Joe Biden: (10:05)
Okay, it’s all yours don’t [inaudible 00:10:06].
Speaker 2: (10:05)
Joe Biden: (10:10)
Oh, you go it [inaudible 00:10:09].
Pete Buttigieg: (10:30)
Well, Mr. President-Elect Biden, madam Vice President-Elect, thank you so much for entrusting me with this opportunity to serve the American people. I am humbled by your confidence, eager to do everything in my power to ensure that this administration succeeds.
Pete Buttigieg: (10:48)
My hometown, South Bend Indiana, was built by the power of American transportation, from trade along the river whose bend gives our city its name, to the rail lines that connected us to the rest of the country back when we were considered the West, to the livelihoods created by the good paying union jobs at places like the aeronautical supplier Bendix, and the giant auto assembly of Studebaker. And now climate and infrastructure innovation are helping bring my community into the 21st century.
Pete Buttigieg: (11:20)
I’ve also had a personal love of transportation ever since childhood. More than once as a college student, I would convince a friend to travel nearly a thousand miles back to Indiana with me on Amtrak; though I know that in this administration, I will at best aspire to be the second biggest train enthusiast around.
Pete Buttigieg: (11:39)
I spent a spring break in graduate school aboard a cargo ship studying there. Travel in my mind is synonymous with growth, with adventure, even love, so much so that I propose to my husband Chasten in an airport terminal. So don’t let anybody tell you that O’Hare isn’t romantic. And I want to take this chance to thank Chasten for everything that he gives, and everything that he sacrifices to support me in public service.
Pete Buttigieg: (12:08)
The first time I ran for office was on a platform of supporting the Obama-Biden administration’s rescue of the auto industry. And when I did first take office as mayor in a city fighting its way out of the teeth of the great recession, infrastructure was at the heart of our vision. We re-imagined how vehicles and people move through the city, unlocking new economic vibrancy in our urban core. We built up partnerships from a regional collaboration to improve rail service, to the public-private partnership that put our city at the cutting edge of bicycle mobility.
Pete Buttigieg: (12:44)
We developed new forms of support for lower wage workers in their commutes, and added electric vehicle charging infrastructure to help prepare for a more sustainable future.
Pete Buttigieg: (12:55)
We also dealt with the challenges created by generations of often inadequate state and federal infrastructure funding. With just enough resources to replenish the paving of every lane mile of street in our city, only every 100 years or so, I faced a constant battle with that natural enemy of all mayors, the pothole.
Pete Buttigieg: (13:19)
And in a community where more than a quarter of our residents lived in poverty, we worked to fill in the gaps that were created when underfunded transit resources left too many cut off from opportunity just because they didn’t have the means to own a car.
Pete Buttigieg: (13:35)
At its best, transportation makes the American dream possible, getting people and goods to where they need to be, directly and indirectly creating good paying jobs. At its worst, misguided policies and missed opportunities can reinforce racial, economic, and environmental injustice, dividing or isolating neighborhoods, undermining government’s basic role to empower everyone to thrive.
Pete Buttigieg: (14:03)
And now comes a historic opportunity. This administration can deliver policies and resources that will create jobs, rise to the climate challenge, and equitably serve all Americans, all while continuing to ensure the safety of travelers and workers alike.
Pete Buttigieg: (14:24)
America has given this administration a mandate to build back better. And step one in building back better, literally, is to build. Americans so shouldn’t settle for less than our peers in the developed world when it comes to our roads and bridges, our railways, and transit systems. The US should lead the way. And I know that in this administration, we will. We’ll bring together leaders in communities from every corner, labor and business, left, right, and center, urban and rural, communities of color, tribal nations, mayors, counties, states, everyone who has a stake in American infrastructure, to design a better future.
Pete Buttigieg: (15:06)
Americans expect us to see to it that the idea of an infrastructure week is associated with results, and never again a media punchline.
Pete Buttigieg: (15:17)
My view of this opportunity is also shaped by being the youngest member so far named to this cabinet, and the first millennial invited to a seat at that table. Newer generations have a lot at stake in infrastructure policy, that by its nature must contemplate both the immediate and the longterm. The question of how America will look by the middle of this century, the competitiveness of our economy, the security of our climate, for me this isn’t academic, it’s personal.
Pete Buttigieg: (15:47)
I’m also mindful that the eyes of history are on this appointment, knowing that this is the first time in American president has ever sent an openly LGBTQ cabinet member to the Senate for confirmation. I can remember watching the news, 17 years old in Indiana, seeing a story about an appointee of President Clinton named to be an ambassador, attacked and denied a vote in the Senate because he was gay, ultimately able to serve only by Recess Appointment.
Pete Buttigieg: (16:21)
At the time, I had no aspirations of being appointed by a president to anything. At that age I was hoping to be an airline pilot. And I was a long way from coming out even to myself, but still I watched that story and I learned something about some of the limits that exist in this country when it comes to who is allowed to belong. But just as important, I saw how those limits could be challenged.
Pete Buttigieg: (16:47)
So two decades later I can’t help but think of a 17-year-old somewhere who might be watching us right now, somebody who wonders whether and where they belong in the world, or even in their own family. And I’m thinking about the message that today’s announcement is sending to them.
Pete Buttigieg: (17:05)
So thank you, Mr. President-Elect, thank you for honoring your commitment to diversity with this administration that you’re assembling. And thank you, Madam Vice President-Elect for your trailblazing leadership, your encouragement, and your friendship.
Pete Buttigieg: (17:22)
There is no greater source of meaning in professional life than the chance to serve others. I felt that meaning every time I laced up my boots when I was in the military, every time I came to work when I was a mayor, and I feel it here now, joining this historic team with such an important mission, preparing to deliver for all Americans. Thank you.
Kamala Harris: (17:59)
As President-Elect Biden and I look ahead to the challenges we will inherit upon walking into the White House, we are focused on containing this pandemic and delivering relief to all who need it. We are focused on safely reopening our schools, and responsibly reopening our economy. And as we’ve said many times, we are also focused on building America back better, and doing what is necessary to lift up all Americans, no matter where they live, whether it’s in big cities, rural areas, or any place in between.
Kamala Harris: (18:37)
One of the most important ways we will do that is by creating good union jobs, to build, operate, and maintain a safe, modern, and sustainable transportation system. A transportation system that will help us grow our economy, tackle our climate crisis, and connect all Americans to jobs and opportunity. We will transform our roads and bridges, transit systems, railways, ports, and airports, while powering them with clean energy spark a renaissance in American passenger rail that will not only connect our country, but unlock job creation and growth across our manufacturing sector.
Kamala Harris: (19:22)
And we will expand and upgrade our transportation system in a way that is equitable, serving communities of every size, urban and rural, across our country. The choice President-Elect Biden has made to help spearhead this work is simply outstanding.
Kamala Harris: (19:43)
I got to know Pete over the last couple of years. We traveled to the same states, attended the same events, and shared a debate stage many times. We’ve had long conversations, he and I, about the future of our country, about the need for bipartisanship, and about family and faith. And along the way, Pete and his wonderful husband Chasten have become very dear friends of Doug’s and mine.
Kamala Harris: (20:11)
Pete is an innovative problem solver. He has a sharp intellect, and a deep commitment to uniting people across party lines, and meeting our challenges together. He is a trailblazing leader from the industrial Midwest who understands we need to create opportunity for people of all backgrounds.
Kamala Harris: (20:34)
And he is of course a veteran, and a dedicated public servant who represents the very best of our country, and the next generation of American leadership. Now, Pete will bring his remarkable talents to bear, not just on behalf of the people of South Bend, but on behalf of the people across our nation.
Kamala Harris: (20:55)
In 1966, upon creating the Department of Transportation, President Lyndon Johnson said, “America’s history is a history of her transportation.” With Pete’s leadership, we are ready to write the next great chapter in that history, modernizing our infrastructure, creating jobs and opportunity, and helping to usher in a clean energy future for the United States of America.
Kamala Harris: (21:25)
Thank you, Mr. President-Elect, and welcome Pete.
Joe Biden: (21:31)
Thank you, and by the way, I called the Vice President-Elect, and thanked her for not getting on the highway in the middle of the storm, a storm about to come up here. She wanted to be here for you, as you know.
Joe Biden: (21:46)
So thank you all very, very much. And if you have to travel-
Speaker 5: (21:50)
[inaudible 00:21:50] when are you getting the vaccine?
Joe Biden: (21:52)
We’re working on that right now. I don’t want to get to the head of line, but I want to make sure that we demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take. They’re working on that plan right now. And when I do it, I’ll do it publicly so you all can actually witness my getting it done.
Speaker 6: (22:10)
[inaudible 00:22:10] nothing wrong?
Joe Biden: (22:13)
Speaker 7: (22:15)
Talk on the stimulus package.
Joe Biden: (22:17)
The stimulus package is encouraging. It looks like they’re very, very close, and it looks like there’s going to be direct cash payments, but it’s a down payment, an important down payment on what’s going to have to be done beginning at the end of January, into February, but it’s very important to get done. I compliment the bi-partisan group on working together to get it done.
Joe Biden: (22:39)
Thank you all very much, and have a good day.
Speaker 8: (22:39)
[crosstalk 00:22:39] amending the Electoral College; would you agree with them?