Betsy DeVos delivered her first public message to about 200 Department of Education workers eager to meet their new leader--and to a nation closely watching how the cabinet appointee will settle into the role of secretary of education.
DeVos was confirmed in a moment historic because the vice president was called upon to break a tied vote. DeVos was one of President Trump's most divisive cabinet appointments since he announced his nomination of her in November, primarily because of her lack of experience working in education coupled with her wealthy background and controversial beliefs concerning school reform.
Her nomination became even more controversial after a rocky confirmation hearing; Democratic senators fired off rounds of hard-hitting questions that DeVos appeared unprepared to answer, fueling an opposition convinced her lack of experience will negatively affect her performance in the role.
Following her confirmation, the Internet was filled with memes and jokes trying to make light of the opposition's despair:
Elementary math under Betsy Devos— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) February 7, 2017
Q: Ned and Sheryl each have 4 apples. Who has more apples?
A: Whomever Mike Pence decides has more apples.
Right now Betsy DeVos is sitting down with popcorn and a big glass of Merlot preparing to type "What is education?" into Yahoo! Answers.— Louis Virtel (@louisvirtel) February 9, 2017
I'm surprised Betsy DeVos hasn't publicly supported this snow storm yet as it's shutting down all local public schools.— Gideon Glick (@gidglick) February 9, 2017
Remember, children, if you try hard, drink milk, take your vitamins, & give 300 million dollars to Republicans you can achieve anything.— Fake Betsy DeVos (@FakeBetsyDeVos) February 9, 2017
DeVos, herself, opted to turn towards humor in her first attempt to unite a country divided over her nomination.
"It's been quite a bear," the new education secretary said yesterday.
She was referring to a now-infamous comment she made during her confirmation hearing in response to a question asked by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) regarding guns in schools. DeVos, trying to make the case that guns should be a local decision due to the varying needs of school districts, said some schools might need them to protect against "grizzlies."
According to The Washington Post, DeVos also used her nine-minute speech to tell the public she is a "door open" type of person and is dedicated to unifying both her employees and the national community.
"We believe students deserve learning environments that foster innovation and curiosity, and are also free from harm.... I’m committed to working with you to make this the case," she said.
She also used her Twitter account to Tweet:
Day 1 on the job is done, but we’re only getting started. Now where do I find the pencils? :) pic.twitter.com/0vRKF1opE9— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVos) February 9, 2017
Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor