Dr. Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services and the highest ranking trans official in the Biden Administration, was sworn in October 19 as a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She becomes the first openly transgender four-star officer in the eight uniformed services, and she will help lead a team of 6,000 people whose duties include providing health services to underserved communities as well as preventing and controlling disease.
“I am honored to serve as the first female four-star officer of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the first openly transgender four-star officer to serve across any of the eight uniformed services,” Levine said after her swearing-in. “This is a momentous occasion, and I am honored to take this role for the impact that I can make, and for the historic nature of what it symbolizes.” She continued, saying “I pledge to be a steward of the nation’s health. I commit to you that I’ll be rigorous in my approach. I will follow the science to build a healthier future where we work to create an environment in which no one is left behind. The health of our nation is paramount.”
Andrea Palm, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, administered the oath, with Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, serving as a witness. “The path towards equality is a long one,” Palm said during the ceremony, “but today we are taking an historic step forward with the appointment of Admiral Levine as the first openly transgender four-star officer across the uniformed services. I am proud to serve at HHS as history is being made, and to support a more diverse future.”
Murthy said that “We are extremely proud to have Dr. Levine join the 6,000 officers of the U.S. Commissioned Corps, who serve on the front lines of our nation’s fight against disease and poor health conditions. They are dedicated to providing healthcare to underserved and vulnerable populations across our country.”
Levine previously served as Pennsylvania Secretary of Health before being nominated by President Biden to be Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services. In March 2021 she was confirmed for the position 52-48 in the Senate, making her the first trans federal official to win Senate confirmation.
Dr. Levine’s full remarks after the swearing in ceremony are below:
“Thank you very much for entrusting me with this role. I would also like to thank my family and friends for their unwavering support as we take this momentous step together. The opportunity to serve as the head of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps as a four-star officer is an extraordinary honor and a profound responsibility. I am truly honored to join the ranks of men and women across this great nation who have committed to defend the United States against small and large threats known and unknown. And I promise to uphold that trust to the fullest extent of my abilities. I am proud to follow in my father’s footsteps and two of my uncle’s footsteps, in serving this great nation. My father, Melvin Levine, often spoke about his service in the air force in World War II, a young man in a small town in Massachusetts stepping up to answer the call to serve in Africa and Italy as a Jewish American in World War II. My mother’s brother, Bernard Cohen, served in the Army during World War II, and was stationed in France after D-Day. My father’s brother, Robert Levine, served as a member of the National Guard assigned to Massachusetts, and still resides there. Just as they stepped up to defend our rights to freedom and liberty, I now follow in their storied tradition of service, as I step up to defend the health of our nation, especially now as we face the biggest public health crisis our country and the world has faced in modern times. I stand before you in this uniform ready to be a beacon in these dark days of Covid-19 working to serve you and this great nation. I am honored to serve as the first female four-star officer of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the first openly transgender four-star officer to serve across any of the eight uniformed services. This is a momentous occasion, and I am honored to take this role for the impact that I can make, and for the historic nature of what it symbolizes. I stand on the shoulders of those LGBTQ+ individuals who came before me, both known and unknown. May this appointment today be the first of many more to come, as we create a diverse and more inclusive future. Diversity makes us stronger. Each person has a different perspective and different strengths that they bring to make the whole community stronger. The time is now for our country to continue to move the bar forward for diversity. And I am proud to wear this uniform and answer that call. Earlier I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Now I pledge my commitment to you. I pledge to be a steward of the nation’s health. I commit to you that I’ll be rigorous in my approach. I will follow the science to build a healthier future where we work to create an environment in which no one is left behind. The health of our nation is paramount. Everyone should be treated with love, respect, and compassion. Thank you.”