Newly appointed US Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Wednesday that America's leadership is needed around the world and vowed that the Biden Administration will provide it. "The US has enormous sources of strength – and we will build upon them. America's values are noble and powerful – and we will recommit to them," Blinken said in his maiden address to the employees of the State Department soon after his arrival at its Foggy Bottom headquarters in downtown Washington DC.
"America’s leadership is needed around the world, and we will provide it, because the world is far more likely to solve problems and meet challenges when the US is there. America at its best still has a greater capacity than any other country on earth to mobilize others for the greater good,” he said.
A long-time aide of President Joe Biden, 58-year-old Blinken was confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of State. Soon thereafter he was administered the oath by Carol Z Perez, the acting Under Secretary of State for Management.
Well aware of the challenges ahead, Blinken told the State Department that the world is watching the United States intently right now. "They want to know if we can heal our nation," he said.
"They want to see whether we will lead with the power of our example… and if we will 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,” Blinken said.
The American people are watching too, he noted. "They want to see that we are safeguarding their well-being, that we care about their interests, that our foreign policy is about them and their lives," he said.
"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. We have our work cut out for us. But I have no doubt that we will succeed,” Blinken said.
Honoured to begin work as the country's 71st Secretary of State, Blinken said he is excited about all that lies ahead. "It’s a new day for America and the world. Today feels like a homecoming,” he said.
Blinken has worked in the building in the past in various capacities including as an intern 28 years ago and as Deputy Secretary of State during the Obama Administration.
"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 you found it. I take that work very seriously. And as Secretary, I will not let you down,” he said.
Blinken said that the State Department he walked into today is not the same one he left four years ago. The world has changed and the Department has changed, he noted.
"We need only look around to see that. I’m speaking to a nearly empty lobby. The people who are here are wearing masks. To date, the pandemic has claimed the lives of 5 State Department Americans and 42 locally employed staff around the world. Many more have gotten sick,” he said.
"And outside our doors, our government buildings are surrounded by new barricades. We’ve never been in a moment quite like this before. The President is committed to getting us through it as quickly as possible, so that soon, we can all gather in person again, travel freely again, and have confidence that the foundations of our democracy are strong,” Blinken said.
"We at State have a role to play in all of this. 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,” he asserted.
Blinken’s speech was greeted with applause from the smattering of employees gathered in the lobby.
Prior to his remarks, Blinken was officially welcomed into the Department for the first time as Secretary of State by approximately 30 of the women and men representing a small cross-section of the larger workforce, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said.