When Hillary Clinton was introduced to her new staff and her new department this morning, the lobby filled with shouts and applause as soon as her name was uttered. As State Department employees snapped cell phone pictures and stood around grinning, Clinton addressed the need to rebuild State, increase morale, and take Foggy Bottom to its rightful place as the face of America to the world.
But first to morale-building:
At my confirmation, I spoke a lot about ‘smart power.’ At the heart of smart power is smart people. And you are those people.
Flattery will get you everywhere with some people and, in a department that has felt marginalized, blamed, and beaten down in Bush administration to the point where its morale problems make the news, being called smart and important is bound to help.
She also worked in a couple of implicit digs at the Bush administration and her immediate predecessor.
There is nothing I welcome more than a good debate and the kind of dialogue that will make us better. We cannot be our best if we don’t give that to ourselves and each other.
And, in an even sharper rebuke to both Rice and Bush:
We are not any longer going to tolerate the kind of paralysis and divisiveness that has undermined our ability to get things done for America.
One of the major themes that Clinton kept coming back to was the need for the State Department to “do good” in the world, which is certainly a more optimistic view of the department’s mission. She’s going to USAID tomorrow and will greet and thank those staff as well, calling them “our partners” in her mission to improve America’s standing in the world, which is definitely a different view from the outgoing administration.
Clinton ended her remarks by calling on State employees to join her in a spirit of “responsibility, joy, commitment and collaboration” to move the department and American diplomacy into the future. That was met by another rousing round of applause. All in all, it was quite the opening speech from the new boss.
Photo courtesy of State Department