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John Kerry: 'Can a Man Actually Run the State Department?'

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John Kerry formally reported for duty at State Department headquarters Monday, and began his day with an address to the department's employees.

Some: highlights of the speech:

So here’s the big question before the country and the world and the State Department after the last eight years: Can a man actually run the State Department?  I don’t know. As the saying goes, I have big heels to fill. But this is beyond a pleasure. I’m going to utter five words that certainly no sitting senator, and probably a former senator, have ever uttered, and that is: These remarks will be brief. And I promise you that, because I don’t know what we’re doing for the productivity of the building right now. If this goes on too long, I may get a phone call from the president on a recall. ...

Some of what I’ve learned is how difficult life can be for people in the Foreign Service who have to uproot kids and uproot families and move from school to school and struggle with those difficulties. It’s not hard – not easy. It’s particularly not easy in this much more complicated and dangerous world. So I understand that. I also understand how critical it is that you have somebody there advocating for you. ...

Here, we can do the best of things that you can do in government. That’s what excites me. We get to try to make our nation safer. We get to try to make peace in the world, a world where there is far too much conflict and far too much killing. There are alternatives. We get to lift people out of poverty. We get to try to cure disease. We get to try to empower people with human rights. We get to speak to those who have no voice. We get to talk about empowering people through our ideals, and through those ideals hopefully they can change their lives. That’s what’s happening in the world today. We get to live the ideals of our nation and in doing so I think we can make our country stronger and we can actually make the world more peaceful.

So I look forward to joining with you as we march down this road together living the ideals of our country, which is the best – imagine: What other job can you have where you get up every day and advance the cause of nation and also keep faith with the ideals of your country on which it is founded and most critically, meet our obligations to our fellow travelers on this planet? That’s as good as it gets. And I’m proud to be part of it with you. So now let’s get to work. 

Watch the whole speech below:

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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