January 12, 1983

The President. Thank you. I know you're clapping for both of my companions up here, but I'll say thanks for them. [Laughter]

It's with deep regret that I have today accepted the resignation of a trusted adviser and able administrator and a man who's done an outstanding job as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Dick Schweiker and I first became acquainted in 1976, when he joined me as a potential runningmate during the battle for the Republican nomination. Since then, we've maintained a strong relationship and a personal friendship that I greatly value and expect to continue.

During these last 2 years as head of the biggest and most costly department of the Federal Government, Dick Schweiker has proven himself in a job that has ground down lesser individuals. Many of our efforts to control the spiraling costs of government depended on his enterprise. I can say without hesitation that we are proud of the job that he has done.

Dick Schweiker has given his country many years of outstanding public service -- first in the House of Representatives, then in the Senate, and the last 2 years as a member of the Cabinet. He's made his contribution and now is moving on. I understand he's been offered a fine opportunity in the private sector, and I wish him the best of luck.

And now I'm happy to announce an outstanding replacement, former Congresswoman Margaret Heckler, my choice as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Congresswoman Heckler brings to the job extensive experience in the workings of government. She served eight terms in the House of Representatives. She has proven herself a practical and compassionate public servant. And I'm confident that she will prove an invaluable member of our team, and I'm looking forward to working with her in the days and months ahead.

Later this morning I will announce my choice for the vacant position of Under Secretary of HHS. But now it's a heartfelt thank you and goodby to Dick Schweiker -- but not really goodby, because I know he'll be on tap anytime I want to sound him out for counsel and advice -- and a warm welcome to Margaret Heckler, who'll be the new Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Secretary Schweiker. Mr. President, I want to thank you for the tremendous opportunity and privilege of serving in your administration. Of my 22 years in the Congress, Senate and House, and the Cabinet, the most exciting and most rewarding period of service was working with you as President. I'm really proud of the opportunity that you gave me.

I'm also proud of the accomplishments that you as President have made and of the success that you're having over many difficult obstacles. I'm proud to have been part of that team, to see the team continuing in such a fine choice as Mrs. Heckler, and proud to be successful in what I believe is a very important new beginning for this country.

And finally, Mr. President, I'd like to say that now that I'm in the private sector, I'm a private sector volunteer. And when you decide to run for reelection I want to be out there helping you or any other private sector assignments you give me.

Thank you very much.

Secretary-designate Heckler. Mr. President, it's quite obvious from the warmth of the response to Dick Schweiker's statement that all Americans, those here and those who will be witness to the event, are also in the line of those who will be applauding the great work that he has done in your behalf and in leading this important agency. I think that all Americans are grateful to Dick Schweiker for his performance.

And I want to say that it is following that set example of leadership and, I think, of commitment that I am especially honored to be chosen as his successor. I consider it a great honor to have your confidence expressed in me. I know that my 16 years of service on Capitol Hill will be of value. But I feel, frankly, that you have offered me the greatest challenge of my life.

But for the honor, and but for one other fact, I would never have undertaken to accept what is the greatest challenge of my life, and that is the honor of serving the finest President that I have known. And, indeed, it is with a sense of faith in your vision and your goals for America, faith in President Reagan, that I accept what I think is the hardest assignment in Washington.

I am honored, I am very proud, I am grateful, and I hope to live up to your expectations.

Note: The President spoke at 10:12 a.m. in the East Room at the White House.