In one of his first acts as president, President Joe Biden on Wednesday issued a stern warning to his appointees that he will fire them “on the spot” if he hears them disrespecting a colleague.
In a virtual address to about 1,000 political appointees during a swearing-in ceremony, Biden said: “I’m not joking when I say this: If you ever work with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I will fire you on the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts.”
“Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way the last four years,” Biden said in a bash of former President Donald Trump. “We’re going to be judged whether or not we restored the integrity and competency in this government. I need your help badly.”
Biden reminded his incoming staff that he has hired them to help “restore the soul of this country.”
“You’re engaged in and you’re working with the most decent government in the world. And we have to restore the soul of this country,” he said. “And I’m counting on all of you to be a part of that — it’s not hyperbole.”
“You work for the people,” he continued. “You’re going to work like the devil. We all [will]. We will all work long hours. … ‘The only thing I expect with absolute certainty is honesty and decency, the way you treat one another, the way you treat the people you deal with.”
In his address to staff, Biden also said he and his appointees will take responsibility.
“I’m going to make mistakes. When I make them, I’ll acknowledge them. And I’ll tell you. And I’ll need your help to help me correct them. We’re not going to walk away. We’re going to take responsibility. That’s what we do. That’s what you do,” he said.
Speaking from the White House State Dining Room, Biden recounted a conversation he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping while he was vice president.
“He said, ‘Can you define America for me?'” Biden said. “I said, ‘Yes’ — and I meant it — ‘and I can do it in one word, one word: possibilities, possibilities. We believe anything is possible if we set our mind to it.”
To his staff, Biden said: “You’re my possibilities. You’re the way we’re going to get this done.”
The new president also set out goals for his appointees. “You’re going to try to keep us safe and secure from the threats and the unseen, to root out systemic racism,” he said. “We’ve reached a point in my view, where the American people had to sort of have blinders have been taken off. They’ve been taken off and realize they didn’t realize before, just how much systemic racism still exists.”
After Biden called for his appointees to raise their right hands and take the oath of office, he said: “As my mom would say, God love y’all. We got a lot of work to do. Thank you for being willing to join.”