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'Big heels to fill': What John Kerry signaled to State Dept. on his first day (+video)

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Gender typecasting of the secretary of State job was helped along by postelection rumors that the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, was President Obama’s first choice for replacing Clinton. Another factor was a line of thinking that holds that the rise of “soft power” issues in diplomacy, like development and democratization, mean that women may be best-suited to directing America’s 21st-century diplomacy.

As he assumed his new position, Kerry seemed intent on scuttling the typecasting – of himself, but also of the role he is embarking on, both on the world stage and within the president’s national security cabinet.

Before heading to his new offices, Kerry also alluded to last September’s terrorist attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya – a tragedy that killed four Americans including the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and shook the morale of State Department employees.

“I guarantee you that, beginning this morning when I report for duty upstairs, everything I do will be focused on the security and safety of our people,” Kerry said.

Noting that the dangers US diplomats face “could not be more clear,” Kerry cited the names of the four fallen Americans – Ambassador Stevens, information officer Glen Dougherty, and security officers Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith – and pledged to “not let their patriotism and their bravery be obscured by politics.” To applause, he said he would “do everything I can to live up to the high standards that Secretary Clinton and her team put in place.” 

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