Hillary Clinton gave her final speech as secretary of state on Friday, thanking employees at the State Department in an emotional goodbye and pledging to them that she “will be an advocate from outside” for the work that they do.
“Please know that I hope you will redouble your efforts to do all that you can to demonstrate unequivocally why diplomacy and development are right up there with defense,” Clinton told those gathered on her final day on the job, “how when we think about who we are as Americans, it’s because we are united and committed … to do whatever is required to fulfill the missions we have assumed as public officials and public servants,”
She spoke for seven minutes, surrounded by employees who sometimes interrupted her with cheers and whoops. One man near Clinton was holding a handmade sign with the words, “Thank you!”
Clinton made her departure official in a letter to President Obama on Friday. Her stepping down from her perch as the nation’s top diplomat will mark the first time in more than 20 years that a Clinton has not held federal office. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Obama’s choice to succeed Clinton, will be sworn in at 4 p.m. Friday.
The outgoing secretary of state gave a nod to her successor in her brief remarks, telling the assembled employees that “next week I would expect that all of you will be as focused and dedicated for Secretary Kerry as you have been for me, and that you will continue to serve President Obama and our nation with the same level of professionalism and commitment that I have seen firsthand.”
She joked several times during her speech. At one point, Clinton – who has traveled nearly a million miles during her four-year tenure – noted that she could not fully express her gratitude “to those with whom I have spent many hours here in Washington, around the world — and in airplanes.”
At another, as she was describing her pride in having led the State Department and the sadness she felt at having to say goodbye to her colleagues, she quipped: “I will miss you. I will probably be dialing ops just to talk.”
Even as Clinton struck an optimistic tone, Friday’s terror attack on the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey, was a reminder of the challenges facing the State Department as Kerry takes the reins. Clinton made note of the attack in her farewell speech, telling employees that “of course, we live in very complex and even dangerous times, as we saw again just today at our embassy in Ankara, where we were attacked and lost one of our foreign service nationals and others injured.”
“But I spoke with the ambassador and the team there, I spoke with my Turkish counterpart, and I told them how much we valued their commitment and their sacrifice,” she added.
Clinton, who fell short in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, gave no hint as to whether she plans to pursue another elective office. But in a sign that Clinton would likely have the right of first refusal if she decided to jump back in, some of her former colleagues on Capitol Hill urged her make a future White House run.
“I know that Hillary will succeed in whatever comes next for her,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in a statement. “And if her future plans include seeking the Presidency, which I hope they do, then I look forward to being on her team and working my heart out to see her elected.”