Antony J. Blinken

First Address to Staff as U.S. Secretary of State

delivered 27 January 2021, C Street Lobby Harry S Truman Building, Washington, D.C.

Audio mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Ambassador Smith: So on behalf of the career professionals of the Department of State, Foreign Service, Civil Service, our locally employed staff around the world, it is my great honor and privilege to present to you the 71st Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken.

SecState Blinken: Thank you. Dan [Daniel Bennett Smith], thank you so much for that incredibly warm welcome -- and more importantly, for serving as Acting Secretary of State, for leading the transition here at the State Department. The Departmentís been in excellent hands with you, and I thank you very, very much for that.

I am honored to begin work as our nationís 71st Secretary of State. Iím excited about all that lies ahead. Itís a new day for America. Itís a new day for the world.

And today does feel a little bit like a homecoming.

Twenty-eight years ago I walked through those doors for the first time to start my job as a special assistant in the EUR front office, a little awed, a little bit intimidated by a legendary institution and a new culture.

It didnít take me long to figure out one thing, and thatís how much the talent and expertise that resides in this building is so important, and so important to listen to the men and women of the State Department when thinking about Americaís place in the world and our foreign policy.

Your knowledge, your experience, your generosity was the springboard that brought me and landed me here today.

Two decades later, as a proud husband, I watched my wife Evan Ryan lead the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and I gained an even deeper appreciation for how people‑to‑people exchanges bring our world closer together and convey the best of America to the world, especially to its young people.

As Deputy Secretary of State, I learned what it means to help lead an institution as vital as this one -- how to safeguard what makes it great, invest in its future, and leave it just a little bit stronger than when you found it.

I take that work very seriously.

As Secretary, I will not let you down.

To all the State Department personnel worldwide, to the men and women of USAID [United States Agency for International Development] whose work exemplifies America at its best, I want you to know how proud I am of every single one of you and how proud I am to be on your team.

Whether youíre diplomats or development workers, members of the Foreign Service or the Civil Service, locally employed staff, contractors -- you do hard things very, very well.

These jobs demand sacrifice. They can be dangerous. The names engraved on the walls here in our lobby remind us of that every single day. We honor them by coming to work every day and doing our absolute best for the American people and for each other.

I know the State Department that Iím walking into today is not the same one that I left four years ago. A lot has changed. The world has changed. The Department has changed, and we need only look around to see that.

Iím speaking, as Dan said, to a nearly empty lobby. The people who are here are all wearing masks. To date, the pandemic has claimed the lives of five State Department American employees and 42 locally employed staff around the world. Many more have gotten sick. And outside our doors, our government buildings are surrounded by new barricades.

Weíve never been in a moment quite like this before. The President is committed to getting us through it as quickly as possible, so that very soon, we can all gather in person again and have confidence that the foundations of our democracy are strong.

We at State have a role to play in all of this, and I believe it starts with rebuilding morale and trust. This is a priority for me, because we need a strong Department for the United States to be strong in the world.

To that end, we have to invest significantly in building a diverse and inclusive State Department. We need the most talented people. We need the most creative workforce. We cannot do our job of advancing Americaís interests, values, and commitment to democracy without a State Department that is truly representative of the American people.

Now, I canít promise that you will support every choice I make as your Secretary. But I can promise an open door and an open mind. Iíll be forthright with you, because transparency makes us stronger. Iíll seek out dissenting views and listen to the experts, because thatís how the best decisions are made. And I will insist that you speak, and speak up, without fear or favor. And I will have your back.

One of the great attributes of our Foreign and Civil Services throughout history has been your nonpartisanship. You serve Democratic and Republican presidents alike because you put country over party. All we ask is that you serve the United States, the Constitution, and the President to the best of your ability. I know youíll do that.

The world is watching us intently right now. They want to know if we can heal our nation. They want to see whether we will lead with the power of our example, if weíll put a premium on diplomacy with our allies and partners to meet the great challenges of our time -- like the pandemic, climate change, the economic crisis, threats to democracies, fights for racial justice, and the danger to our security and global stability posed by our rivals and adversaries.

The American people are watching us, too. They want to see that weíre safeguarding their wellbeing, that we care about their interests, that our foreign policy is about them and their lives.

We will do right by them -- by pursuing a foreign policy that delivers real benefits to American families, protects their safety, advances their opportunities, honors their values, and leaves their children and grandchildren a healthier and more peaceful world.

So weíve got our work cut out for us. But I am confident we will succeed.

The United States has enormous sources of strength -- weíre going to build upon them.

Americaís values are noble and powerful -- and we will recommit to them.

And Americaís leadership is needed around the world, and weíll provide it, because the world is far more likely to solve problems and meet challenges when the United States is there.

America at its best still has a greater capacity than any other nation on Earth to mobilize others for the better.

The State Department will be central to all of this. I know youíre ready. I am too. Weíre in the arena together. We do work that matters. So letís meet this moment -- our moment -- with joy.

Thank you all for being part of this great endeavor. I am honored to be your Secretary.

Now letís get to work.

Thank you.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

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Page Created: 1/27/21

U.S. Copyright Status: Text and Audio = Public domain. Video = Public domain (with use subject to these terms).
































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