The audio technician conducts one last sound test, and my public affairs colleagues prepare to stream the event live on www.state.gov. The press officers escort the media to the Benjamin Franklin Room, where many State Department events take place. Everything is occurring according to a process, one of which we've carried out dozens and dozens of times. And, yet, the event that is about to occur is anything but routine. The Vice President of the United States is minutes away from ceremoniously swearing in the 68th U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.
As we wait for the ceremony to begin, my coworker and I reflect on our time at the State Department. I remember arriving on my first day and reciting the oath of office every employee takes, a pledge similar to the one Secretary Kerry is about to make to uphold our Constitution.
And I remember on my first day meeting one of my colleagues who immediately offered me a handshake and her name, and then said, "Cyrus Vance. He was the first Secretary of State I served." She briefly reminisced about the Secretaries of State who had led the Department since Vance's tenure and told me that each one brought new ideas and new opportunities. A new Secretary of State inspires you.
The ceremony begins, and Secretary Kerry addresses the crowd, a group of individuals who represent the many chapters in his record of public service. In his remarks, the Secretary says:
"We can help people to help themselves. We can protect children as we did in Africa, where PEPFAR has saved millions of lives. We can keep students learning even after an earthquake destroys their schools, as we did in Pakistan. We can help young girls pursue their dreams of education, as we did in Afghanistan and other places in the world. That is what the Department of State can do."
As our new Secretary of State departs the room, I can't help but think that my colleague, who served 10 Secretaries of State from Cyrus Vance through Condoleezza Rice, was right.
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