When I became President, one of my top priorities was to establish the Department of Education. Prior to that time, the crucial need for an independent and viable department was obvious, as it was buried under the Department of Health and Welfare. There were long and intense debates in the U.S. Congress, and finally the new department was approved by a close vote. The selection of the first Secretary was very important to me, and after thorough consideration, my first (and only) choice was Shirley Hufstedler. I was delighted when she accepted my offer and was sworn in on December 6, 1979.