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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks at Silver Line Ribbon Cutting - Dulles International Airport, Virginia

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Thank you and good morning! What a great day this is, what a pleasure it is to be here, and I am mindful of being the last speaker in an extensive program, so I’ll keep my comments brief.  

But I can’t miss the opportunity to celebrate with you and to offer my congratulations to everyone who made today possible, everyone who kept fighting for years and years and years, knowing how much it would help the people of this region.  

Senator Warner, Senator Kaine—[formerly] Governor Warner and Governor Kaine—thank you and congratulations. To the Representatives, Wexton and Beyer and Connolly, and everybody in Congress who helped make this happen. To Chairs McKay, and Randall, and Smedberg, to the WMATA Board, including Matt Letourneau, to Jack Potter, certainly to Randy Clarke, to you and your fantastic team, Mayor Bowser, who you have so much to be proud of in D.C., and your residents, including my kiddos and my spouse and myself, are delighted by today’s news.   

And a big thank you and congratulations to everyone who by their skill and their sweat made this actually possible, physically, and will begin getting it up and running in a matter of moments, including the members of ATU Local 689, who I’m pretty sure are excited to get out there – thanks for what you do to keep us moving. 

So many of us have so many strong associations and memories when it comes to Dulles Airport. I wasn’t expecting to go quite as far down memory lane as Senator Warner took me, but I certainly remember the excitement I felt when a bus dropped me and a bunch of other students with backpacks slung over our shoulders to get ready to board a jumbo jet to take us overseas for a scholarship that changed all of our lives. I remember the knot in my stomach when a cab dropped me off a few years later to catch a flight to Kuwait and on to a war zone for the first time as a civilian economic adviser. And a bit less dramatically, the many, many times as Transportation Secretary that I come here to catch a flight. And so many people, either in their greatest adventures or in their everyday routines, count on the transportation in and around this airport, in and around this region. 

When the airport was first opened, almost exactly sixty years today, President Kennedy said that the building “symbolizes the aspirations of the United States.”  

And I think the same can be said of the Silver Line today. Allowing people to affordably get to where they need to go, whether it is a baggage handler working at the airport, or a federal employee, yes commuting into the District of Columbia, or a software engineer working at the terrific tech employers who are here, so many will count on this and will benefit from it.  

And I think all of us in the DMV have that experience of a friend saying that they’re coming to Washington, they’re flying in, and you’re so excited, “I can’t wait, I’ll be there to greet you when you come.” And then there’s that little pause... “Wait a minute, which airport did you say you’re gonna be coming to?” Awkward pause no more, because it will be easier no matter what.  

And it’s a very fitting day for this celebration, and not only because, as I would be remiss to omit, it is the birthday of our Federal Transit Administrator Nuria Fernandez; it is a welcome birthday gift. But also, as was mentioned, the one-year anniversary of the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. One, by the way, which would not have been possible without support from each of the House members and Senators that you saw speak earlier, and we thank you for that support that got us to this point. 

And just like many of us would say of the Silver Line itself, not a moment too soon. We have been waiting a long time, nationally, for the investments that are allowing us to fix roads and bridges, to allow us to reconnect communities that were divided in the past, to say “yes” more and more times to more and more great applications for improvements at ports and airports, including by the way, right here at Dulles where a new 14-gate concourse will improve access to passengers right in and out of this region. Just a few of the literally thousands of projects that are underway and that reflect the vindication of those who believe that we need and must pursue these kinds of infrastructure investments. 

And what we’ve seen, with the passage of the Infrastructure Law and with the projects we’re helping to deliver... and what we see here with the Silver Line.... is democracy at work. And yes, as anyone who’s ever survived a public hearing or meeting, sometimes democracy in action can be a lot to bear, but at the end of the day, people have come together to make things better.  

And as Chair Randall so aptly put it, this is more than anything about everyday life. Because this room, Senator Kaine and Mr. McKay, and others, we are in the minority in terms of literally dreaming about public policy and public transit and transportation. But everybody has dreams about faith or about family or about enterprise or whatever it is that makes them tick, and we don’t even have to know what they dream about to know that what happens next, when they get up in the morning, whatever it is that makes them tick, they will be better off because of the environmental benefits, the economic benefits, the safety benefits, the affordability benefits, of excellent public transportation. 

So I join you, much as I felt in my first months and year or two as mayor cutting ribbons on things that my predecessor had set into motion, knowing that this is the result of what many people who have come long before us have done, I’m here more than anything to join in that celebration, to urge you on, to represent a resolutely and enthusiastically pro-public transit Biden-Harris administration, and to offer my warmest congratulations to everybody who’s been part of this. 

Thank you very much.