THE WHITE HOUSEOffice of the Press SecretaryFor Immediate Release January 21, 2009REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN WELCOMING SENIOR STAFF AND CABINET SECRETARIES
TO THE WHITE HOUSERoom 450
Eisenhower Executive Office Building1:18 P.M. EST THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Please be seated. Still getting used to that whole thing. (Laughter.) Please be seated. Thank you so much. I wanted to get everyone together on the first day to welcome you to the White House. From our vantage point yesterday you couldn't help but be inspired by the sight of Americans as far as the eye could see. They were there because they believe this is a moment of great change in America, a time for reinvigorating our democracy and remaking our country. They've entrusted all of us with a great responsibility. And so today I'd like to talk with you about our responsibility to keep that trust. In a few minutes I'm going to be issuing some of the first executive orders and directives of my presidency. And these steps are aimed at establishing firm rules of the road for my administration and all who serve in it, and to help restore that faith in government, without which we cannot deliver the changes we were sent here to make — from rebuilding our economy and ensuring that anyone who is willing to work and find a well-paying job, to protecting and defending the United States, and promoting peace and security. However long we are keepers of the public trust we should never forget that we are here as public servants and public service is a privilege. It's not about advantaging yourself. It's not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients. It's not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization. Public service is, simply and absolutely, about advancing the interests of Americans. The men and women in this room understand this, and that's why you're here. All of you are committed to building a more responsible, more accountable government. And part of what that means is making sure that we're spending precious tax dollars wisely and cutting costs wherever possible. During this period of economic emergency, families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington. And that's why I'm instituting a pay freeze on the salaries of my senior White House staff. Some of the people in this room will be affected by the pay freeze, and I want you to know that I appreciate your willingness to agree to it, recognizing that it's what's required of you at this moment. It's a mark of your commitment to public service. But the American people deserve more than simply an assurance that those who are coming to Washington will serve their interests. They also deserve to know that there are rules on the books to keep it that way. They deserve a government that is truly of, by, and for the people. As I often said during the campaign, we need to make the White House the people's house. And we need to close the revolving door that lets lobbyists come into government freely, and lets them use their time in public service as a way to promote their own interests over the interests of the American people when they leave. So today we are taking a major step towards fulfilling this campaign promise. The executive order on ethics I will sign shortly represents a clean break from business as usual. As of today, lobbyists will be subject to stricter limits than under any other administration in history. If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on, or in the agencies you lobbied during the previous two years. When you leave government, you will not be able to lobby my administration for as long as I am President. And there will be a ban on gifts by lobbyists to anyone serving in the administration, as well.