Feb 2, 2023
Ron Klain’s Full Speech as He Steps Down as White House Chief of Staff Transcript
Outgoing White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said it was the “best job” he ever had and choked up after promising it was unlikely he could deliver a tear-free speech. Read the transcript here.
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Joe Biden (00:00):
Amazing gentleman, Ron Klain.
Ron Klain (00:32):
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Joe Biden (00:32):
Ron Klain (00:35):
Thank you all. All right. Thank you all very much. I will try to keep this brief, but I cannot promise there will not be some tears. This is the best job I’ve ever had. And even though it’s also the hardest job I’ve ever had, I will miss this job, our work, this mission, and most of all this team every single day. But I take solace in knowing that I am leaving you in the best of hands. Jeff Zients will be the first White House chief of staff ever to have led two policy shops and have been head of OMB before he took over as White House chief of staff.
At the darkest time in the Biden 2020 campaign, Jeff stepped up to help. He also ran the transition and picked frankly many of you here in this room. He ran the COVID response and led the team that has helped save hundreds of thousands of lives. Now, two weeks ago, I marked our anniversary here by buying everyone on the team cake. It was the second time in two years I had bought everyone cake and people were very happy. But Jeff has pledged to buy everyone in the White House a free bagel every single day.
So I will soon be forgotten. But what will not be forgotten is the work we have done together these two years. You’ve heard me say this before, but I never tire of saying it. Together we passed the largest economic plan and the most significant one since FDR while managing the largest land war in Europe since Truman. We passed the biggest infrastructure bill since Ike passed more judges than any first year president than JFK and the second largest healthcare bill since LBJ, the most significant gun control bill since Bill Clinton was president, and the largest climate bill passed by any country, at any time, anywhere on planet earth, all while managing the worst public health crisis any president faced since Woodrow Wilson with the narrowest majority in Congress of any new Democratic president in a hundred years.
And that’s not all. Student loan debt relief, record low black and brown unemployment, the PACT Act for veterans, a sweeping marijuana pardon, the Respect for Marriage Act, the most Americans ever with healthcare coverage, ending the longest war in American history, we’ve seen a dramatic drop in child poverty, the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, the deficit cut more than any other president, and the record number of jobs created in this country in any two-year period. Now, that’s not bad.
And it is especially not bad, it is especially not bad for a president and a team that was written off for dead in the winter of 2019 and for dead again in the winter of 2020, and for dead again in the winter of 2021, and for dead again the first week of November 2022.
The president likes to say, it is never a good bet to bet against the American people. And he is right. But what I want to say today is it is never a good bet to bet against Joe Biden and this team. Never, ever a good bet.
Now, before I turn the podium over to Jeff, I want to say some thank yous and I appreciate your indulgence because this will not be brief. I first want to thank the men and the women of the Secret Service, especially my detail led by Brian Purdue for their exceptional professionalism and for all they’ve done to keep my family safe these past two years. The team in my office, Niyat and Madeline, and then Marianna, Nina, and Rema. They’re brilliant and energetic. They’re here every day before I get here. They’re here every day after I leave. I can’t thank them enough.
And to Remi Yamamoto, I have to say she has always had my back. She has always given good advice, even if she has failed to get me to purchase a new suit for television hits. To the Biden cabinet, the first in history to be evenly divided between men and women. The most diverse cabinet in history and the most excellent cabinet in history. It has been an honor to call you colleagues. Each and every one of you has become a friend and a trusted partner. My joy today is in knowing that you have to say goodbye to me before I have had to say goodbye to any of you.
To the senior staff in our department heads… In is inaugural address, the president said that this was a time for boldness in America and your work has been the heart and the soul of that boldness. For two years, we’ve started each day with a Zoom call at 8:20 where I see the most talented and public spirited and diverse and amazing people. On good and bad days, you’ve come to this place and you have delivered for the American people. You are my peers, my partners, my friends, my family, away from my family. I will miss you more than I can say.
And while there is a danger in naming names, I have to thank those people who are at the White House I have leaned on the very most, Susan Rice and Jake Sullivan, Brian Deese, John, and Nira, and Ashish, and Jean Sperling, Louisa and Kate Beddingfield, Liz Sherwood, Karin, Keisha, Julian, Lorraine, Anthony Bernal and Annie Tomasini, and of course Bruce Reed, Anita Dunn, Mike Donilon, my very first hire, Jen Dylan and my brother in all things, Steve Ricchetti.
I want to say this about this group. The record should show that everything we accomplished here these past two years is because of you and everything we have screwed up is because of me. I just want to wrap up with three additional thank yous. To my family, starting with my mother who as the president mentioned is too ill to be here today. I would not be here today without her and everything she has done for me. To my family, my kids who support and patience and love and understanding, has kept me going these two years for the engagement celebrations I missed, the birthdays I missed, the time I was not there to do various things, thank you. I love you guys. And for the next two years, every day, it’s my turn to walk the dog.
To the vice president, who’s represented here by our outstanding second gentleman, Doug. It’s been an honor, to be her next door neighbor in the West Wing these two years. I wish every American could get to know Vice President Harris as I have. I would say she has been the best vice president in history. But to the president and first lady, Dr. Biden, you welcome me into the Biden family four decades ago. And there’s no higher honor I could have.
It’s more than I could possibly ask. Thank you so much for everything. As the president mentioned, I joined Joe Biden senate staff 36 years ago. And over those 36 years, I’ve picked up three kids, gotten two engaged, paid for six college and advanced degrees. So I just want to say this one thing today. I learned everything I know about how to be a good father from Joe Biden. He is the best father I know and the best role model I know.
Along the way, he’s taught me a thing or two about politics and policy as well. Mr. President, a few minutes ago I talked about your historic record. But as much as what you have done is historic, how you have done it is equally important with honor and integrity, a devotion to working people, that’s unmatched, a determination to save our democracy, and the soul of this nation.
Being White House chief of staff is the honor of a lifetime, but being Joe Biden’s, White House chief of staff has given me a unique opportunity to serve a wise, compassionate, determined, and fearless president. And as I did in 1988, and 2008, and 2020, I look forward to being on your side when you run for president in 2024.
All right. I will close. I’ll finally close with some words for the staff here. I’m often asked, what is the best souvenir I got in two years as White House chief of staff? And my answer is very simple. It’s this rock. This bladed simple rock. It was given to me a year ago on one of our darker days by Louisa Terrell, and it’s always symbolized to me the fact that this team has been rock solid in their support of our agenda and the president. We’ve never wavered. We’ve been as solid as a rock.
And so I ask you today to continue to play that role. I ask each and every one of you to continue your jobs as the rock of this White House, this administration, and this presidency. That’s our mission. And with that, I will turn the podium over to the next White House chief of staff, Jeff Zients.