POLITICS

White House Drug Czar Shares The Best Moment Of His Senate Confirmation Hearing

03/11/2015 03:18 pm ET | Updated Mar 12, 2015

WASHINGTON -- Testifying before Congress can be a grueling experience, especially when the Senate is considering whether to approve your nomination for a prestigious administration job. Lawmakers may go after a nominee for being unqualified, quiz them on obscure policy issues or hold them accountable for the president's actions that they've so far had nothing to do with.

But Michael Botticelli, named to become the new director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, used his November hearing to do something that gave him a tremendous amount of satisfaction: introduce his husband, David Wells, to a panel of GOP lawmakers opposed to the very idea of their marriage.

"[T]he best thing about a hearing was that I was even able to introduce him to the Judiciary Committee," Botticelli said of Wells on Friday during his swearing-in ceremony at N Street Village, a recovery community for homeless and low-income women.

Botticelli and Wells have been together for 20 years. They got married in 2009.

"Dave and I had the privilege to be together for 20 years, and he has been with me through all of this," said Botticelli at his ceremony, where Wells sat to his side. "Many times he's wished me well when I leave for work in the morning, saying, 'Go save the world.'"

"But without his love and support, I would never be able to be here, to be with you and to do this work," Wells added. He then addressed Botticelli, saying, "I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your patience and your wisdom and your love."

Watch Botticelli's swearing-in and Judiciary Committee hearing above. Below is his full speech at N Street Village.

The Senate unanimously approved Botticelli's nomination last month.

A former head of the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, Botticelli represents a break from the traditional drug czar -- exemplified by his choice to be sworn in at N Street Village. He has emphasized prevention and treatment, and has been in recovery for more than 25 years. Botticelli's background is in public health, while each previous drug czar had ties to the military, law enforcement or the evangelical movement.

Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, was on hand to witness Botticelli's swearing-in. She told The Huffington Post afterwards that she and her agency have benefited from his new perspective. "I learned to recognize the importance of a holistic strategy that begins with prevention and that includes strong treatment and includes recovery. From the day I met him, I've been so impressed," said Leonhart. She added that she has worked with Botticelli since he was deputy drug czar.

Botticelli has been public about his own journey, but made it clear at his swearing-in that his story should not be a guide to public policy. Instead, he said, policy should be based on evidence and sound science -- a controversial position in the drug policy world.

CORRECTION: This post suggested that Botticelli is the first drug czar to have no prior experience with the military or law enforcement. William Bennett, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, was first to hold the post and came from administrative positions in the humanities.

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