On March 18, Deb Haaland was sworn in as the secretary of the interior. The swearing-in ceremony was historic, with Haaland being the first ever Native American woman to hold this important position. Haaland was confirmed by a 51-40 vote in the Senate. As secretary of the interior, Haaland oversees a vast number of government organizations, from the National Parks Service to the Bureau of Land Management and more.
As President Biden continues to establish his presidential cabinet, it can be difficult for college students to keep up with the fast-paced nomination and confirmation process. There are a total of 15 secretaries whose role it is to report to and advise the president on matters relating to the departments they oversee. Below are some key figures among Biden’s cabinet and how their leadership will impact Americans.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: Antony Blinken was sworn into office on January 26, 2021. As secretary of state, Blinken advises and represents the president and the U.S. on foreign policy matters. Secretary Blinken is from New York and has said his family’s long history of public service is part of what inspired him to pursue his career in public service. He said, “Among my parents and grandparents are immigrants, refugees, a Holocaust survivor. For them and many others, America was the last best hope on earth. Their stories inspired me to serve.” Secretary Blinken hopes to continue America’s leadership role in the world, as well as partner with foreign countries to tackle pressing global issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen: Dr. Janet Yellen was sworn into office on January 26, 2021. Secretary Yellen is the first woman to serve as the secretary of the treasury. Secretary Yellen has also served as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and the chair of the Federal Reserve.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin: Secretary Austin was sworn into office on January 22, 2021. Secretary Austin served in the Army for 41 years, including serving as the commanding general of United States forces in Iraq. Secretary Austin also serves on the National Security Council and as a crucial advisor to the president on matters of national security and defense. This past weekend Secretary Austin made a surprise visit to Afghanistan to visit top officials and the president of the country.
Attorney General Merrick Garland: Merrick Garland’s name may be familiar to some, as he was President Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Although he was previously denied confirmation hearings, Garland was confirmed with a 70-30 vote in the Senate. As attorney general, Garland has promised to keep the Justice Department nonpartisan. Additionally, he has also pledged to help with prosecutions of those who stormed the Capitol on January 6 as one of his first priorities. Garland has an extensive judicial background, having served as a federal judge for many years and having been a leader in the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bomber.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg: Pete Buttigieg first emerged on the national political stage during his presidential campaign for the 2020 election. Although he dropped out of the race, the former mayor has been a large supporter of Biden since. Secretary Buttigieg was confirmed by the Senate in an 83-13 vote and was sworn in on February 2, 2021. Secretary Buttigieg is the first openly gay person to hold this cabinet position. As secretary of transportation, Buttigieg hopes to revitalize the nation’s infrastructure, which includes making transportation greener. As Secretary Buttigieg noted, transportation is the biggest contributor to climate change in the United States.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona: During his presidential campaign, Biden pledged that the role of secretary of education would be filled by an educator who truly understood America’s complex education system. Dr. Miguel Cardona fulfills this role, having worked as a teacher, a principal and a district administrator. One of Secretary Cardona’s first priorities is to help safely reopen schools after the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Secretary Cardona also hopes to address inequality in the education system, something he has experienced first-hand. As a student in Connecticut, Secretary Cardona, the son of immigrants from Puerto Rico, didn’t know English when he started school. Secretary Cardona also has voiced support for having more counselors in schools. He was confirmed in a 64-33 vote in the Senate.