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Jane Henney Swearing-In as FDA Commissioner

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Tuesday, December 15, 1998

Thank you, Secretary Shalala, for your leadership on this confirmation -- and your leadership on every issue that touches the health and well-being of the American people.

Earlier this year, I had the honor of speaking at the March to Conquer Cancer on the Mall here in Washington. It was incredible to look out at 100,000 hopeful faces -- survivors, families, friends -- and feel the contagious power of their voices, and their cheers. But you have never heard a cheer like the one that went up when I said that we must confirm Jane Henney as Commissioner of America's Food and Drug Administration.

Well, Jane, it's been a long time coming, but we stuck with it -- and I am so proud to be here today, and I want to thank everyone here for standing with us, for organizing, for lobbying, and for reaching across party lines to make this special day possible.

There are few positions that touch our lives in so many fundamental ways as that of the FDA Commissioner: protecting the safety of the food we eat, and the beverages we drink. Bringing life-saving drugs and therapies to people who need them -- quickly, and safely. Making sure that as we approach the 21st Century -- a time of stunning new advances in medicine, in technology, in agricultural science -- that we share and extend that progress to all our people.

When you realize that the FDA regulates prescription drugs, medical devices, food, and cosmetics -- a full 25 percent of our national economy -- you realize the sheer scope and complexity of this job. Jane, this is your last chance to reconsider...

It takes more than scientific wisdom to meet that challenge. It takes a person of strong judgement, and clear vision; it takes a person of compassion and reason; it takes not just a scientist, but a true humanist. I believe America has found just the right person in Dr. Jane Henney. As a physician, as an academic leader, and as a top official at two federal health agencies in four different administrations, she has been a champion high clinical standards. She has been a model of modern management. And most importantly, she is someone we can trust with our nation's health.

I first met Jane back in 1995 at the Carrie Tingley Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I knew Jane had extraordinary potential from the moment I met her; at the time, she was serving at the University of New Mexico, in the esteemed post of Vice President for Health Sciences. Never underestimate that Vice President position...

At the Carrie Tingley Hospital, I saw children with everything from run-of-the-mill health problems to rare, life-threatening diseases. Anyone who saw Dr. Henney walk through that hospital, or any of the hospitals she was managing -- anyone who saw how she reached out to those children, and filled them with hope -- would see her unique compassion, commitment,and understanding. I know that caring and concern will make her an outstanding leader of the FDA.

Dr. Henney is also a top-flight administrator. As Secretary Shalala mentioned, over the last six years, the FDA has become a model of reinvention. Under President Clinton's remarkable leadership and vision, the FDA is stronger than it has ever been. Dr. Henney is uniquely qualified to take the FDA to the next level: to implement the bipartisan reforms many of you worked to pass, and to continue to modernize and streamline the FDA -- even as we aggressively pursue its core mission.

Both President Clinton and I look forward to working with Dr. Henney on some of our priority issues -- including food safety, anti-tobacco measures to protect our children, and working to strike the right balance between cutting-edge therapy and quick approval times one on hand, and a ceaseless commitment to public health and sound science on the other. But I am especially proud that she is the first cancer specialist to head the FDA. It has been more than two decades since America first declared war on cancer. We want to be the generation that wins that war. And to do so, we need a brilliant and able Field Marshall like Dr. Henney.

Jane's husband, Dr. Bob Graham, has said he's never seen Jane leave a place where people didn't want her to come back. Well, Jane -- I am proud to have the chance to administer your oath as the first woman Commissioner of the FDA in American history. And I am prouder still that we're the ones who got you back. Welcome to our team.

So let me now call up Dr. Jane Henney, to be sworn in as the new Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration.

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I, Jane Henney, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

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Congratulations. Now I'm pleased to ask Dr. Henney to say a few words.

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