In a flag-decked ceremony on the White House South Lawn, President Bush on Wednesday marked the evolution of the Veterans Administration into the Department of Veterans Affairs after swearing in a former Army private to lead the agency.
“I consider the new department to have a vital mission. It is so vital there is only one place for the veterans of America: in the Cabinet room with the President of the United States,” Bush said as the new department secretary, Edward J. Derwinski, stood by his side.
Swears In Derwinski
Derwinski, a 12-term Illinois congressman who filled high State Department posts in the Reagan Administration, was sworn in by Bush in a private ceremony in the Roosevelt Room.
The new secretary said Americans thought of veterans in terms immortalized by Rudyard Kipling’s tribute to the British “Tommy:”
“For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck ‘im out, the brute!’
“But it’s ‘Savior of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot.”
In praising Derwinski as “uniquely suited” to lead the new department, Bush said: “He has the skill of a seasoned legislator, the patience of a practical administrator, the finesse of a diplomat and the heart of a man who knows what it means to start his government career as a private in the U.S. Army.”