Education Federal File

Pomp and Circumstance

February 08, 2005 2 min read

It’s doubly official. Margaret Spellings is now really the new secretary of education. First, she was sworn in Jan. 20 by White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. in the Oval Office just hours after the Senate confirmed her appointment.

Then, on Jan. 31, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush—along with many friends and colleagues of Ms. Spellings’, plus leaders from other agencies and Capitol Hill—convened at the Department of Education’s headquarters to watch Mr. Card administer the oath of office to Ms. Spellings once again at her new digs.

Similar ceremonies have been conducted for other Cabinet members after they were officially sworn in.

“Margaret is the right person to carry out a reform agenda,” President Bush told the audience of more than 200 in the Education Department’s auditorium. “She is talented, she is smart, she is capable, and she is a lot of fun to be around.”

Secretary Spellings was joined on stage by her husband, Robert D. Spellings, her two daughters from a previous marriage, Mary and Grace LaMontagne, and her two adult stepsons, Britain and Robert.

“I stand here today as a product of the public schools,” she said. “I’m also an education consumer, the first mother of school-age children to serve as secretary of education. In carrying out my duties to the American people, I will be carrying out my duties as a mom. And there’s none more important than to provide a quality education to our children.”

Her daughter Mary attends a parochial high school; Grace attends a public middle school.

Several influential lawmakers on education attended, including the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate education committee, Sens. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House education committee.

Noticeably absent was Rep. George Miller of California, that panel’s senior Democrat.Was the absence due to Mr. Miller’s concern over one of Ms. Spellings’ first actions in her new job?

He had criticized her as “catering to the extreme and intolerant far right wing” last month in reaction to a letter the secretary sent to the Public Broadcasting Service objecting to an episode of the children’s public-TV show “Postcards from Buster” that had included two lesbian couples.

But Mr. Miller’s spokesman said the lawmaker didn’t make the ceremony simply because he was traveling.

Mr. Miller and Ms. Spellings met later last week on Capitol Hill, the spokesman said, and had a “substantive and cordial discussion.”

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A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2005 edition of Education Week