THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to the least suspenseful announcement of all time. (Laughter.) As almost all of you have reported -- (laughter) -- my chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has informed me that he will be leaving his post today to explore other opportunities. (Laughter.)
This is a bittersweet day here at the White House. On the one hand, we are all very excited for Rahm as he takes on a new challenge for which he is extraordinarily well qualified. But we're also losing an incomparable leader of our staff and one who we are going to miss very much.
When I first started assembling this administration, I knew we were about to face some of the most difficult years this country has seen in generations. The challenges were big and the margin for error was small -- two wars, an economy on the brinks of collapse, and a set of tough choices about issues that we had put off for decades; choices about health care and energy and education, how to rebuild a middle class that had been struggling for far too long.
And I knew that I needed somebody at my side who I could count on, day and night, to help get the job done. In my mind, there was no candidate for the job of chief of staff who would meet the bill as well as Rahm Emanuel. And that's why I told him that he had no choice in the matter. He was not allowed to say no. It wasn't just Rahm's broad array of experiences in Congress and in the White House, in politics and in business. It was also the fact that he just brings an unmatched level of energy and enthusiasm and commitment to every single thing that he does.
This was a great sacrifice for Rahm and Amy and the family to move out here. Rahm gave up one of the most powerful positions on Capitol Hill to do this. And in the last 20 months, Rahm has exceeded all of my expectations. It's fair to say that we could not have accomplished what we've accomplished without Rahm's leadership -- from preventing a second depression to passing historic health care and financial reform legislation to restoring America's leadership in the world.
So for nearly two years, I've begun my workday with Rahm. I've ended my workday with Rahm. Much to Amy's chagrin, I've intruded on his life at almost any hour of the day, any day of the week, with just enormous challenges. His advice has always been candid; his opinions have always been insightful; his commitment to his job has always been heartfelt, born of a passionate desire to move this country forward and lift up the lives of the middle class and people who are struggling to get there.
He has been a great friend of mine, and will continue to be a great friend of mine. He has been a selfless public servant. He has been an outstanding chief of staff. I will miss him dearly, as will members of my staff and Cabinet with whom he's worked so closely and so well.
Now, I don't think anybody would disagree that Rahm is one of a kind. I am very fortunate to be able to hand the baton to my wise, skillful, and longtime counselor, Pete Rouse. Pete, who has more than 30 years of experience in public service, will serve as interim chief of staff as we enter the next phase of our administration.
Many of you remember Pete as the top aide to then Senator -- Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle. Pete was affectionately known as the "101st senator." From the moment I became a U.S. senator, he's been one of my closest and most essential advisors. He was my chief of staff in the Senate. He helped orchestrate and advise my presidential campaign. He has served as one of my senior advisors here at the White House.
And in that role, he's taken on a series of management and legislative challenges with his customary clarity and common purpose. There is a saying around the White House, let's let Pete fix it. (Laughter.) And he does. Pete's known as a skillful problem-solver, and the good news for him is that we have plenty of problems to solve. (Laughter.)
So I am extraordinarily grateful to him that he's agreed to serve as our interim chief of staff. And I look forward very much to working with him in this new role.
Obviously, these two gentlemen have slightly different styles. (Laughter.) I mentioned, for example -- this was a couple of years ago -- I pointed out that Rahm when he was a kid had lost part of his finger in an accident, and it was his middle finger, so it rendered him mute for a while. (Laughter.) Pete has never seen a microphone or a TV camera that he likes. (Laughter.)
And yet, there's something in common here. You know, as President of the United States you get both the credit and the blame for what happens around here. And the blame is usually deserved, or at least I happily accept it because that comes with the territory. But the credit really goes to the men and women who work in this building.
It goes to people like Rahm and Pete and the hundreds of others who are here today, who sometimes get some attention and sometimes don't, but these are folks who give up incredibly lucrative opportunities, sacrifice enormously, and their families sacrifice enormously. And they come here every day to do the best possible job on behalf of the American people, and oftentimes, they don't get the thanks that they deserve.
As your President and as a fellow American, I want to take this moment to say to all the staff, all the Cabinet members, how proud I am of you and how grateful I am of you, and how particularly proud and grateful I am to my outgoing chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. (Applause.)
MR. EMANUEL: Thank you. It's a slightly different reception than I got at my bar mitzvah, but I appreciate -- (laughter.)
Thank you, Mr. President, for those generous words. But more importantly, thanks for your warm friendship, your confidence, and the opportunity to serve you and our country in such consequential times. Needless to say, this is a bittersweet day for me too.
On the one hand, I'm excited to be heading home to Chicago, which as you know very well, Mr. President, is the greatest city in the greatest country in the world. I'm energized by the prospect of new challenges and eager to see what I can do to make our hometown even greater.
These are unprecedented and great times in Chicago, Mr. President. The Chicago Bears are 3-0. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Unbelievable.
MR. EMANUEL: I'm also sad to leave you, the Vice President, and my terrific colleagues here at the White House, the Cabinet, and so many friends on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue with whom I've worked as chief of staff and as a member of Congress.
It's been a profound privilege to work for and with you, Mr. President. I watched you confront some of the toughest challenges of our time. And you've done it with unfailing grace, intelligence, and courage. You had the tough -- you had the guts to make the tough calls that stopped the freefall and saved our country from a second Great Depression.
You've taken on some of the most powerful interests in this town to stand up for the American people. And you've been willing to challenge the worn-out ideas and the stale thinking that often stands in the way of progress.
Mr. President, I thought I was tough. But as someone who saw firsthand how close our nation came to the brink and what you had to do to put America back on track, I want to thank you for being the toughest leader any country could ask for in the toughest times any President has ever faced. (Applause.)
And even on the hardest days, you never lost focus on why we're here -- not just to score political points, but to solve problems; not just to win the next election, but to make a difference for the next generation.
I have served you, Mr. President, as a member of your staff, but I also observed you as a friend. I have seen what few are privileged to see: the father whose heart breaks when he writes a letter to parents whose son or daughter has been lost on the field of honor; the man of quiet committed faith who always appeals to the better angels of our nature; and the proud product of the American Dream, who sees in the reams of economic statistics the child who struggles and the single parent with limited income but unlimited potential.
You have lived that American Dream, Mr. President, as have I. My father and my grandfather came to this country for opportunity. They came here for a better life for their children. My mother marched with Martin Luther King because she believed that none of us is truly free until all of us are.
Both my parents raised me to give something back to the country and the community that has given us so much. And I want to thank you for the opportunity to repay in a small portion of the blessings this country has given my family. I give you my word that even as I leave the White House, I will never leave that spirit of service behind. (Applause.)
Now, because my temperament is sometimes a bit different than yours, Mr. President -- (laughter) -- I want to thank my colleagues for your patience the last two years that you have shown. I'm sure you've learned some words that you've never heard before -- (laughter) -- and in an assortment of combination of words. (Laughter.) What we learned together was what a group of tireless, talented, committed people can achieve together. And as difficult as it is to leave, I do so with the great comfort of knowing that Pete Rouse will be there to lead the operation forward.
From the moment I arrived, and the moment he arrived, Pete has been a good friend with great judgment. He commands the respect of everyone in this building and brings decades of experience to this assignment.
Finally, I want to thank my wife Amy and our three remarkable children -- Zach, Ilana and Leah -- without whose love and support none of this would have been possible. I hope to end this soon so they can all get back to school today and finish their exams. (Laughter.)
Mr. President, thank you. And thank you all. I look forward to seeing you in Chicago. (Applause.)