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Deputy Secretary's Speech


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Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007


Deputy Secretary of Commerce David A. Sampson
Farewell Remarks
U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, D.C.

Mr. Secretary, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored by your presence today.

Thank you for your very kind and generous words. Thank you for your confidence and for the opportunity to serve as your Deputy. I hope that in some small way I have contributed to the advancement of the economic and management agenda the President and you established for the Department. Together, we have strengthened the Department’s ability to fulfill its critical mission.

Over the past two years, I have had many occasions to remark why you were a successful CEO in the private sector. Your quick grasp of the essential issues, penetrating questions, sound judgment and unfailing personal kindness have left a profound impression not only on me, but on everyone who has served as part of your Executive Management Team. Without question, I am a better leader for having had the opportunity to work so closely with you.

It has been a tremendous privilege to serve in President Bush’s Administration at the Department of Commerce for 6½ years, first as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development and then the past two years as Deputy Secretary.

It was ten years ago this summer when then Governor Bush appointed me to serve in his Administration in Texas. No words can express my deep appreciation for the trust the President has placed in me and the opportunities he has given me to serve Texas and the nation in the five positions to which he appointed me over the past decade.

Whatever the future holds for me, having served under President Bush’s leadership, as well as that of Secretaries Evans and Gutierrez, will be the high point of my career. The U.S. economy has experienced many challenges over the past 6½ years, many of which were unimaginable when President Bush took office. The strong record of economic growth during this period is a testament to the resilience of free markets and President Bush’s leadership in creating the kind of economic environment that encourages entrepreneurship, ownership, innovation and international trade. It’s a record that will withstand the test of time.

Winston Churchill said, “The dominant forces in human history have come from the perception of great truths and the faithful pursuance of great causes.” Time and again, in the face of unprecedented threats to America’s economic and national security, President Bush has kept his focus on “great truths” and faithfully pursued “great causes.”

I shall always consider myself blessed to have witnessed firsthand his courageous, compassionate and principled leadership.

Many times over the past 6½ years, when the outlook has been bleak, I have found it helpful to look to history in order to gain perspective for the present. It has never been easy to be President. In the aftermath of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, the American people blamed President Kennedy, which was fair enough; he blamed himself. But according to historian and author William Manchester, “they were neither angry nor disappointed – they were exultant.” “What gets me,” President Kennedy told Manchester, “is that all these people seem to want me to fail. I don’t understand that. If I don’t succeed, there may not be another President.”

Manchester’s conclusion was, “They didn’t care; if he came to grief, it would prove them right, and the vindication of one’s judgment for some men, has absolute precedence.”

If President Kennedy’s concerns were valid in 1961, they are multiplied exponentially today. I am proud to have served a President who has never failed to focus on the strategic threats to our continued existence as a free people regardless of the contemporary judgment of the press, the polls or the pundits.

I would be remiss on an occasion such as this if I failed to acknowledge the people who have been of inestimable support. It has been my great privilege to serve with an esteemed group of colleagues these past 6½ years, my fellow Presidential Appointees. I thank you for your professionalism, your service and your sacrifices to serve our nation. I’d also like to express my appreciation to the many dedicated career employees here at the Department. I have been consistently impressed by the depth of your subject matter expertise and your exemplary commitment to public service. It has been a pleasure to work with you.

For the past 6½ years, I have also been supported by an unbelievably talented, dedicated, and loyal personal staff both at EDA and in the Deputy Secretary’s office. You made me look good time and again. I’m proud of what you have accomplished and profoundly grateful for your work and your friendship, because I do count you as friends.

I am particularly indebted to two key members of my staff, David Bearden, who was my Principal Deputy at EDA and Aimee Strudwick, my current Chief of Staff. I am a fortunate man to have been surrounded with people whose judgment I trusted, who respectfully encouraged me to think twice on occasion and who knew how to get things done.

The “self-made man” exists only in the delusions of the hopelessly arrogant. Throughout my life, I have been blessed with loving parents, family, mentors and friends. It is no exaggeration when I say that I would have never had the opportunity to serve here without their encouragement and support. Some of them are now beyond life’s travails and see our current struggles from eternity’s perspective. I am honored others are here today.

My colleagues who serve as Presidential appointees know that our families make a tremendous sacrifice which enables us to serve. They see what no one else does – the results of the stress, the long hours and the extensive travel. I am mindful of how blessed I am to have been married to Karen for 28½ years. She is immensely talented in her own right and has literally kept our family together. I honor you. I hope that someday in the perspective that often comes with age, our boys will value and appreciate this experience as well.

The Good Lord has been extraordinarily merciful and gracious to me throughout my life. As I depart, my prayer for the President and each of you in the future will be as it has been these past 6½ years: “The Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you and give you peace.”