Perry rallies Energy Department on his first day: ‘Change the world’

Perry rallies Energy Department on his first day: ‘Change the world’
© Greg Nash

New Energy Secretary Rick Perry gave a rousing speech to the department's employees on his first day, marveling repeatedly at the prowess and abilities of the agency.

Perry, who acknowledged that he said in 2011 that he wanted to abolish the Department of Energy (DOE), told his new department Friday that he was awestruck at what its workers do.

“Think about the ability that you have, and that we collectively have in front of us, with the proper management and authority and direction to literally go change the world. What a cool place to get up every day and go to work at, that has the potential to do that,” Perry said in his speech to roughly 13,000 employees and 93,000 contractors that work in Washington, D.C., its national laboratories and elsewhere.

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“You realize how fortunate you are to be a part of that?” he asked. “There are literally millions of people around the world today who would give anything to be in your shoes, to be a part of something so consequential.”

He noted, for example, that the DOE’s work on developing hydraulic fracturing for natural gas or petroleum “literally changed the world,” particularly in his home state of Texas.

“What’s next? Is it in cybersecurity? Is it in supercomputing? Is it in something that even you haven’t dreamed up yet? That’s the exciting thing,” he said.

“I’m proud to be an American every day. But today, I am truly blessed and as proud as I’ve ever been, to say that I am on a team of men and women who have the potential to change the world.”

Perry was Texas’s longest-service governor, serving from 2000 to 2015. He ran unsuccessfully for president twice, most recently against President Trump, who is now his boss.

He famously forgot about the DOE in a 2011 presidential debate as he tried to list the agencies he wanted to eliminate.

But he made it clear, both in his January Senate confirmation hearing and at his Friday speech, that he had changed his mind on that topic.

DOE employees and advocates are not overly concerned about Perry’s appointment to lead the agency. But Trump’s administration is considering major cuts to the agency’s budget, including key research programs in computing, renewable energy and elsewhere.

Perry was sworn in as secretary of Energy Thursday evening, after the Senate voted 62-37 to confirm him.

Perry made it clear to DOE workers that he wants them to thrive in their missions, which include energy research and maintaining the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.

“There are so many of you that have solutions to challenges that we have, but maybe, for whatever reason, it just hasn’t flowed up to the right place,” he said. “And I want you to know that this office is going to be open to you, to your ideas, to the solutions, to the results that could really affect this country and the world.”