John Kerry: ‘Big Heels to Fill’

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry waves to employees in the C Street Lobby during his first day at the State Department on Feb. 4, 2013 in Washington.

Secretary of State John Kerry allowed today that he has “big heels to fill.”

Kerry, addressing employees at the State Department on his first formal day on the job, pledged to focus on the safety of diplomats who work around the world and not to let politics obscure the legacy of four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya. He spent the weekend after his Friday swearing-in ceremony making calls to allies around the world.

The former Massachusetts senator is the first white male to hold the job in 16 years.

He succeeds Hillary Clinton, former senator from New York and former first lady, who succeeded Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009), who succeeded Colin Powell (2001-2005), who succeeded Madeleine Albright (1997-2001).

“Here’s the big question after the last eight years,” Kerry told the hundreds of employees who crowded the lobby of the Harry S. Truman building. “Can a man actually run the State Department? As the saying goes, I have big heels to fill.”

Kerry thanked Clinton and President Barack Obama “for his trust in me to take on this awesome task.”

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