I’m long over due for my next blog post. This one follows my journey of diversity and inclusion in these United States.
Secretary of State John Kerry has been in his new assignment for less than two weeks. Included in remarks to employees on February 4, 2013, he said: …So here’s the big question before the country and the world and the State Department after the last eight years: Can a man actually run the State Department? I don’t know. As the saying goes, I have big heels to fill….[Ref 1]. While there was a lot of laughter in response to his comments, I chuckled to myself and said: “That’s a good question, Secretary Kerry.”
Let’s see. The last four U.S. Secretaries of State were:
- 67 – Hillary Rodham Clinton (2009-2013)
- 66 – Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009)
- 65 – Colon Luther Powell (2001-2005)
- 64 – Madeleine Korbel Albright (1997-2001)
Madeleine Albright had the distinction of serving as the 64th Secretary of State and also was the first female to be appointed to this position. She was followed by General Colon Powell who had the distinction of being a retired high ranking officer in the U.S. military as well as the first African American male and person of color in this position. Condoleeza Rice, succeeded General Powell as the first African American female and woman of color, and it appears that one of Hillary Clinton’s distinctions will be the only former first lady to be appointed to this position.
For sure, given the stellar credentials of his predecessors, Secretary Kerry has some large shoes to fill regardless to whether or not they are wing tips or high heels. The last white male to serve as secretary was Warren Christopher (1993-1997) under President Bill Clinton. What’s important to note during the last 16 years is the diverse and differing styles that each brought to the Department of State, and how the world leaders perceived and worked with each. Each has a great mix of education and professional experience that would be highly desirable for a person who is required to meet with world leaders on important matters of interest to Americans and other global citizens. Even more important in the global arena is how the world views one who has been tapped to be the President’s chief foreign affairs adviser. Isn’t it also wonderful that the world is getting to see America’s diversity through the State Department??
The good news for Secretary Kerry is that he doesn’t have to address a “first” stigma as his predecessors did. However, to his credit, he is the first sitting Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman to become secretary in over a century. This should serve him well in this new position and be worth at least three “feathers” in his cap.
So, to answer Mr. Kerry’s question: Yes, a man, a woman, and even a naturalized-citizen can aspire to be Secretary of State of these United States. I’ll also add that just 20 years ago, this question would have never been raised, just as it’s only been 20 years that we have had the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). The times, they are a changing….too fast for some, not fast enough for others…changing.
1. “Welcome Remarks to Employees”, John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, Washington, DC, February 4, 2013, http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/02/203717.htm