On his first day at State Department, John Kerry introduced himself with humor, passion, a nod to the women who preceded him, and a pledge to focus on the 'security and safety of our people.'
Secretary of State John Kerry says he has “big heels to fill” in his new role as America’s chief diplomat, acknowledging that for the past eight years women held the post he publicly assumed Monday morning.
Speaking to employees in the State Department’s lobby as he arrived for his first full day of work, Secretary Kerry also told a heartfelt “this-is-why-we-do-this” story of himself as a 12-year-old boy in a divided Berlin – where his father was a US foreign service officer – deciding one day to use his passport to ride his bicycle over to the eastern, Communist side of the city.
“I really noticed the difference between the East and the West,” Kerry said. People in East Berlin “kind of held their heads down.… There was no joy in those streets."
"When I came back [to West Berlin],” he added, “I felt this remarkable sense of relief and a great lesson about the virtue of freedom and the virtue of the principles and ideals that we live by and that drive us.”
Whether it was designed that way or not, Kerry’s story – and a few jokes about getting lost in the big building he’ll run – served as an antidote to speculation that an aloof and humorless old-style diplomat would replace the warm, passionate, and much-loved Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Kerry’s allusion to filling the “big heels” of Ms. Clinton – and before her, Condoleezza Rice – also touched, intentionally or not, on pre-confirmation speculation that the secretary of State job has in some eyes come to be considered as one best filled by a woman.
As Kerry himself quipped in his comments, “The big question before the country and the world” is now: “Can a man actually run the State Department?”