WASHINGTON — Newly installed Secretary of State John Kerry says he has “big heels to fill.”
Starting work Monday, the former senator and 2004 presidential candidate was greeted by loud cheers from America’s foreign service workers. One held up a “Welcome JFK” sign.
Succeeding women secretaries of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and Condoleeza Rice, Kerry asked in jest: “Can a man actually run the State Department?”
Praising Clinton, he also said, “I have big heels to fill.”
Kerry is the son of a diplomat and was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for four years. Greeting State Department staff, he spoke of his childhood time in Germany and learning the virtues of freedom.
Kerry said he and President Barack Obama needed help to make America safer and the world more prosperous and peaceful.
Kerry spent much of the weekend making connections with leaders around the world.
Kerry reached out to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in phone calls Sunday, assuring them the Obama administration will continue to pursue a Mideast peace agreement while recognizing the individual concerns on both sides.
He told Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he and President Barack Obama were committed to Israel’s security. Netanyahu and Kerry also discussed Iran and Syria, and pledged to work together closely.
In his conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry pledged to continue efforts with Congress to release budget support funds for the Palestinian Authority.
The department also said Kerry spoke with Israeli President Shimon Peres on Saturday about the formation of the country’s new government, and said the two “exchanged views” on the peace process and regional matters.
On a busy first weekend as America’s top diplomat, Kerry also spoke with his counterparts in Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Canada and Mexico. He had lunch with George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan.
Kerry was sworn in Friday, succeeding Hillary Rodham Clinton in Obama’s Cabinet.