- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2009

UPDATED:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was greeted with a storm of applause and loud cheers when she arrived at the State Department to take up her new position Thursday, declaring the start of a “new era.”

Mrs. Clinton, the third woman to serve as chief U.S. diplomat after Madeleine K. Albright and Condoleezza Rice, was overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate and sworn in Wednesday.

She was 15 minutes late for her welcome ceremony, but the crowd of hundreds did not seem to mind. She was greeted at the department’s main entrance by Undersecretaries of State William J. Burns and Patrick F. Kennedy, the two highest-ranking career officials at Foggy Bottom.

“I’m absolutely honored and thrilled beyond words to be here with you as our nation’s 67th secretary of state,” Mrs. Clinton told her new employees. “I want you to think outside the proverbial box.”

She also said that President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will visit the State Department on Thursday afternoon to show their commitment to working closely with the diplomatic corps.

“There are three legs to the stool of American foreign policy: defense, diplomacy and development, and we are responsible for two of the three legs,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We’ll make clear as we go forward that diplomacy and development are essential tools in achieving the long-term objectives of the United States.”

The former New York senator and one-time first lady promised “hard work,” but also welcomed different views and opinions, which drew applause from the crowd.

“I take this office with a real sense of joy, responsibility, commitment and collaboration,” she said. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, let’s get to work.”

Steve Kashkett, vice president of the American Foreign Service Association, the diplomats’ union, said the Foreign Service has suffered “neglect” in recent years and it hopes that the Obama administration will change that.

After the reception fit for a world-class celebrity, Mrs. Clinton was given a tour of the building, a tradition on every secretary of state’s first day in office, although they spend some time there for various meetings and briefings as soon as they are nominated.

Only two Republican senators opposed their former colleague’s nomination Wednesday because of concerns about foreign donations to former President Bill Clinton’s foundation.

Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, said he voted against the nomination because Mrs. Clinton had refused to provide guarantees that her husband’s foundation will not receive donations from foreign government while she is in office. Such a pledge, he said, would remove any temptations for other countries to try to influence U.S. policies.

“I do not plan to slow up this nomination, but I do find it difficult to support a nominee who I know will pursue policies so contrary to American sovereignty and the dignity of the human person,” Mr. DeMint said.

The other opposing vote was cast by Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, who was the only dissenting voice when the Foreign Relations Committee recommended approval to the full Senate last week.

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