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Bernanke vows to work with Congress

/ Source: The Associated Press

New Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke vowed Monday to do his best to carry out the central bank’s mission of fighting inflation, fostering economic growth and nurturing a healthy jobs climate.

“Our mission as set forth by the Congress is a critical one,” Bernanke said Monday at his ceremonial swearing-in at the Fed’s headquarters.

Bernanke’s first day on the job was last Wednesday.

President Bush attended the ceremony, marking only the third visit by a president to the Federal Reserve.

Before becoming chief of the Fed, Bernanke, 52, served as the president’s top economist as chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.

“I came to trust his judgment, his calm demeanor and his sly sense of humor,” Bush said.

Former Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker also attended and were warmly applauded by staff members who lined majestic marble staircases leading to the event, which was held in a two-story atrium. The glass ceiling bore the coat of arms of the United States.

Greenspan, 79, the second-longest serving chairman of the Fed, retired last week after more than 18 years at the helm.

Bush praised Greenspan’s stewardship of the economy during that time. Greenspan, he said, was perhaps the only central banker to achieve “rock star status.”

A former Fed governor and Princeton economics professor, Bernanke said he recognized “taking up the challenge of leading an institution with such weighty responsibilities” and looked forward to working with a staff that possesses “unmatched expertise and experience.”

The Fed’s power rests with the staff that make up the institution and is “far more than any single individual,” Bernanke said.

When Bernanke was finished speaking, he was greeted with a standing ovation.

He now follows Greenspan, who was referred to as the maestro, the greatest central banker who ever lived and the second-most important person in Washington.

Considered one of the country’s foremost economic thinkers, Bernanke has limited political experience. Bernanke said he looks forward to “a strong and constructive relationship” with Congress.

Bernanke will go before Congress next week to deliver the first installment of the Fed’s twice-a-year report on the economy. Investors, economists and politicians will be closely watching his performance.