Nov 24, 2020
Joe Biden Announcement Transcript November 24: Key Cabinet Picks
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris announced their appointees and nominations to key foreign policy and national security cabinet positions on November 24. Read the transcript of the announcement here, with remarks from John Kerry, Antony Blinken, and other cabinet picks.
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Joe Biden: (00:15)
Joe Biden: (00:18)
Well, good afternoon, everyone. Today, I’m pleased to announce nominations and staff for critical foreign policy national security positions in my administration. It’s a team that will keep our country and our people safe and secure. And it’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it. Once again sit at the head of the table. Ready to confront our adversaries and not reject our allies. Ready to stand up for our values. In fact, in calls from world leaders that I’ve had, about 18 or 20 so far, I’m not sure the exact number, in the week since we won the election, I’ve been struck by how much they’re looking forward to the United States reasserting its historic role as a global leader, both in the Pacific, as well as the Atlantic, all across the world.
Joe Biden: (01:15)
The team meets this moment, this team behind me. They embody my core beliefs that America is strongest when it works with it’s allies. Collectively, this team has secured some of the most defining national security and diplomatic achievements in recent memory, made possible through decades of experience working with our partners. That’s how we truly keep America safe, without engaging in needless military conflicts, and our adversaries in check, and terrorists at bay. And that’s how we counter terrorism and extremism, control this pandemic and future ones, deal with [inaudible 00:01:55] crisis, nuclear proliferation, cyber threats in emerging technologies that spread authoritarianism, and so much more.
Joe Biden: (02:04)
And while this team has unmatched experience and accomplishments, they also reflect the idea that we can not meet these challenges with old thinking and unchanged habits. For example, we’re going to have the first woman lead the intelligence community, the first Latino and immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and a groundbreaking diplomat at the United Nations. We’re going to have a principle on the National Security Council who’s full-time job is to fight climate change. For the first time ever that will occur. And my national security team will be coordinated by one of the youngest national security advisors in decades.
Joe Biden: (02:46)
Experience and leadership, fresh thinking and perspective, and an unrelenting belief in the promise of America. I’ve long said that America leads not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. And I’m proud to put forward this incredible team that will lead by example.
Joe Biden: (03:09)
As Secretary of State, I nominate Tony Blinken. He’s one of the better prepared for this job. No one’s better prepared in my view. He will be the Secretary of State who previously served in top roles on Capitol Hill, in the White House and in the State Department. He delivered for the American people in each place. For example, leading our diplomatic efforts and the fight against ISIS, strengthening America’s alliance and positions in the Asian-Pacific, guiding our responses to the global refugee crisis with compassion and determination. And he will rebuild morale and trust in the State Department, where his career in government began.
Joe Biden: (03:52)
And he starts off with the kind of relationships around the world that many of his predecessors have had to build over the years. I know, I’ve seen him in action. Tony’s been one of my closest and most trusted advisors. I know him and his family, immigrants and refugees, a Holocaust survivor, who taught him to never take for granted the very idea of America as a place of possibilities. Possibilities. Tony is ready on day one.
Joe Biden: (04:24)
As Secretary for Homeland Security, I nominate Alejandro Mayorkas. This is one of the hardest jobs in government, a gigantic agency. The DHS Secretary needs to keep us safe from threats at home and from abroad and it’s the job that plays a critical role in fixing our broken immigration system. After years of chaos, dysfunction and absolute cruelty a DHS, I’m proud to nominate an experienced leader who has been hailed by both Democrats and Republicans. Ally as he goes by is a former US attorney, former Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, and a former DHS Deputy Secretary. Helped implement DACA, prevented attacks on the homeland, enhanced our cybersecurity, helped communities recover from natural disaster, combated Ebola and Zika. And while DHS affects everyone, given it’s critical role in immigration matters I’m proud that for the first time ever the department will be led by an immigrant, a Latino, who knows that we are a nation of laws and values. And one more thing, today’s his birthday. Happy birthday, man, happy birthday. He’s 21.
Joe Biden: (05:45)
As a Director of National Intelligence, I nominate Avril Haine, the first woman ever to hold this post. To lead our intelligence community I didn’t pick a politician or a political figure. I picked a professional. She’s eminently qualified. Former Deputy Director of the CIA, former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama, and a fierce advocate for telling the truth and leveling with her decisions with the decision makers, straight up, nothing unnecessary. I know because I’ve worked with her for over a decade. Brilliant, humble, can talk literature and theoretical physics, fixing cars, flying planes, running a bookstore cafe, all in a single conversation, because she’s done all that. And above all, if she gets word of a threat coming to our shores, like another pandemic or a foreign interference in our elections, she will not stop raising alarms until the right people take action. People will be able to take her word because she always calls it as she sees it. I believe we are safer with Avril on a watch. I think she can make a great contribution.
Joe Biden: (07:03)
And as United States Ambassador to the United Nations I nominate Linda Thomas Greenfield. A seasoned and distinguished diplomat with 35 years in the foreign service who never forgot where she came from, growing up in segregated, Louisiana, the eldest of eight, her dad couldn’t read or write, but she said he was the smartest person she knew. First in her family to graduate from high school, then college, with the whole world literally ahead of her as her dad and mom taught her to believe. Post in Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, Jamaica, Liberia, where she was known as the people’s ambassador. Willing to meet with anyone, an ambassador, a student, working people struggling to get by, and always treating them with the same level of dignity and respect. She was our top State Department official in charge of African policy during the Ebola crisis. She received overwhelming support from her fellow career foreign service officers. And she’ll be a cabinet status because I want to hear her voice on all the major foreign policy discussions we have.
Joe Biden: (08:15)
And my National Security Advisor, I choose Jake Sullivan. He’s once in a generation intellect with experience and temperament for one of the toughest jobs in the world. When I was Vice President, he served as my National Security Advisor. He was a top advisor to Secretary of State Clinton. He helped lead the early negotiations that led to the Iran nuclear deal. He helped broker the Gaza ceasefire in 2012, played a key role in Asia Pacific rebalance in our administration, and in this campaign for the presidency he served as one of my most trusted advisors on both foreign and domestic policy, including help me develop our COVID-19 strategy. Jake understands my vision, that economic security is national security, and it helps steer what I call a foreign policy for the middle class, for families like his growing up in Minnesota, where he was raised by parents who were educators, and taught him the values of hard work, decency, service and respect.
Joe Biden: (09:20)
What that means is to win the competition for the future we need to keep us safe and secure, and build back better than ever. We need to invest in our people, sharpen our innovative edge, unite the economic might of our democracies around the world to grow the middle class, and reduce inequity and do things like counter predatory trade practices of our competitors and our adversaries.
Joe Biden: (09:49)
And before I talk about the final person today, let me talk about this new position. For the first time ever the United States will have a full-time climate leader who’ll participate in ministerial level meetings-
Joe Biden: (10:02)
… participate in ministerial level meetings. And that’s a fancy way of saying they’ll have a seat at every table around the world. For the first time ever, there will be a principal on the NASA Security Council who can make sure climate change is on the agenda in the situation room. For the first time ever, we will have a Presidential Envoy on climate. He will be matched with high level White House climate policy coordinator and policymaking structure to be announced in December. And that’ll lead efforts here in the United States to combat the climate crisis, mobilize action, to meet the existential threat that we face. Let me be clear. I don’t for a minute underestimate the difficulties of meeting my bold commitments to fighting climate change. But at the same time, no one should underestimate for a minute my determination to do just that.
Joe Biden: (10:57)
And as for the man himself, if I had a former secretary of state who helped negotiate the Paris Climate Accord, or a former presidential nominee, or a former leading Senator, or the head of a major climate organization for the job, that would show my commitment to the United States and the whole world. The fact that I picked the one person who was all of these things speaks unambiguously to my commitment. The world will know that with one of my closest friends, John Kerry, he’s speaking for America on one of the most pressing threats of our time. No one I trust more.
Joe Biden: (11:37)
To this team, I thanked them for accepting this call to service. And for their families, I thank you all for your sacrifice. We could not do this without you, in my view. Together, these public servants will restore America globally, it’s global leadership, and it’s moral leadership. And will ensure that our service members, diplomats, and intelligence professionals can do their job free of politics. They’ll not only repair, they’ll also reimagine American foreign policy and NASA security for the next generation. And they’ll tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know, what I need to know. To the American people, this team will make us proud to be Americans. And as more states certify the results of this election, there’s progress to wrap up our victory.
Joe Biden: (12:35)
I’m pleased to have received the ascertainment from GSA to carry out a smooth and peaceful transition of power so our teams can prepare to meet the challenges at hand, to control the pandemic, to build back better, and to protect the safety and security of the American people. And to the United States Senate, I hope these outstanding nominees received a prompt hearing and that we can work across the aisle in good faith to move forward for the country. Let’s begin that work to heal and unite, to heal and unite America as well as the world. I want to thank you all. May God bless you. May God protect our troops. And now I turn this over, this new team, starting with our next secretary of state, Tony Blinken. Get my mask here, Tony, so I don’t get in trouble. And we’re going to clean off the podium.
Tony Blinken: (13:50)
Good afternoon. Mr. President-elect, Vice President-elect Harris, thank you for your trust and your confidence. If confirmed by the United States Senate, I will do everything I can to earn it. Mr. President-elect, working for you, having you as a mentor and friend has been the greatest privilege of my professional life. So many people have brought me to this day. From college classmates to band mates, my colleagues in the Clinton and Obama administrations, in the Senate, and at the State Department. I thank them all. And I ask forgiveness for my insatiable appetite for bad puns. Mostly, I’d like to thank my family. Sisters and sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, my wonderful in-laws, the Ryans, and especially my wife, Evan Ryan, and our children, John and Leila. They are truly my greatest blessings.
Tony Blinken: (14:55)
For my family, as for so many generations of Americans, America has literally been the last best hope on earth. My grandfather, Maurice Blinken, fled pogroms in Russia and made a new life in America. His son, my father, Donald Blinken, served in the United States Air Force during World War II, and then as a United States ambassador. He is my role model and my hero. His wife, Vera Blinken, fled communist Hungary as a young girl and helped future generations of refugees come to America. My mother, Judith Pisar, builds bridges between America and the world through arts and culture. She is my greatest champion.
Tony Blinken: (15:44)
And my late stepfather, Samuel Pisar, he was one of 900 children in his school in Bialystok, Poland, but the only one to survive the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps. At the end of the war, he made a break from a death march into the woods in Bavaria. From his hiding place, he heard a deep rumbling sound. It was a tank. But instead of the iron cross, he saw painted on its side a five pointed white star. He ran to the tank, the hatch opened, an African-American GI looked down at him. He got down on his knees and said the only three words that he knew in English that his mother taught him before the war, God bless America.
Tony Blinken: (16:32)
That’s who we are. That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly. Now we have to proceed with equal measures of humility and confidence. Humility because, as the president-elect said, we can’t solve all the world’s problems alone. We need to be working with other countries. We need their cooperation. We need their partnership. But also confidence because America at its best still has a greater ability than any other country on earth to bring others together to meet the challenges of our time. And that’s where the men and women of the State Department, foreign service officers, civil service, that’s where they come in. I’ve witnessed their passion, their energy, their courage up close. I’ve seen what they do to keep us safe, to make us more prosperous. I’ve seen them add luster to a word that deserves our respect, diplomacy. If confirmed, it will be the honor of my life to help guide them. And so thank you all. And may God bless America.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (17:59)
Good afternoon. Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for placing your trust in me to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Thank you for the privilege of returning with the consent of the Senate to government service as a member of your administration. It is the honor of a lifetime. The Department of Homeland Security has a noble mission, to help keep us safe and to advance our proud history as a country of welcome. There are more than 240,000 career employees who selflessly dedicate their talent and energy to this mission. Many risks their lives in doing so. I would be honored to return to the department and support these dedicated public servants in fulfilling their responsibilities and realizing our country’s greatest hopes, all in partnership with the communities we serve.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (18:57)
For 12 years, I had the privilege to stand in a federal courtroom and announce, “Alejandro Mayorkas on behalf of the United States of America.” The words “on behalf of the United States of America” meant everything to me and to my parents whom I think of today and every day. My father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism. They cherished our democracy and were intensely proud to become United States citizens, as was I. I have carried that pride throughout my nearly 20 years of government service and throughout my life. My parents are not here to see this day. Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice-President-elect, please know that I will work day and night in the service of our nation to ably lead the men and women of the United States Department of Homeland Security.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (20:03)
… Men and women of the United States Department of Homeland Security, and to bring honor to my parents and to the trust you have placed in me to carry your vision for our country forward. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (20:12)
Avril Haines: (20:39)
Mr. President elect and Madam Vice President elect, I am grateful and even more so humbled by the trust that you’ve placed in me for this role. I’m especially honored to be standing not only by your side, but also alongside some of the most talented and inspiring public servants this country has ever seen. I know Mr. President elect and Madam Vice President elect, that you have selected us not to serve you, but to serve on behalf of the American people, to help advance our security, our prosperity, our values, that the call to service in this role is what makes this nomination such a tremendous honor. If reported the opportunity to do so, I will never forget that my role on this team is unique. Better than that of a policy advisor, I will represent to you, Congress, and the American public, the patriots who comprise our intelligence community.
Avril Haines: (21:41)
Mr. President elect, you know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power. And that will be my charge as Director of National Intelligence. I’ve worked for you for a long time, and I accept this nomination knowing that you would never want me to do otherwise and that you value the perspective of the intelligence community and that you will do so even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult. And I assure you, there will be those times. And finally, to our intelligence professionals, the work you do, oftentimes under the most austere conditions imaginable, is just indispensable. It will become even more complex because you will be critical to helping this administration position itself not only against threats such as cyber attacks or terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, but also those challenges that will define the next generation from climate change to pandemics and corruption. And it would be the honor of a lifetime to be able to work alongside you once again, to take these challenges on together. Thank you so much.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield: (23:10)
Good afternoon. Mr. President elect, Madam Vice President elect, I’m humbled and honored by the trust that you’ve placed in me to become a member of your cabinet as Ambassador to the United Nations. In the years that I’ve worked in government, I’m always struck by how only in America would we be where we are today, where life can be hard and cruel, but there’s hope in the struggle. There’s promise in our dreams, where you learn to believe in yourself and that anything is possible. Like both of you, I learned from my family. Mr. President elect, thank you for those generous words that you said about me. My parents had very little back in Louisiana where I grew up, but they gave me and my siblings everything they had and I know how proud they would be of this day. On this day, I’m also missing my mentor, Ambassador Ed Perkins, who served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations under President George HW Bush and President Clinton. And who was also from Louisiana. He told me constantly, “Linda, don’t undersell yourself.” And he would always do everything possible to lift me up.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield: (24:42)
He passed away last week, but I know he’s here with us today. And on this day, I’m thinking about the American people, my fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world. I want to say to you, “America is back, multi-lateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.” Mr. President elect, I’ve often heard you say how all politics is personal, and that’s how you build relationships of trust and bridge disagreements and find common ground. And in my 35 years in the foreign service across four continents, I put a Cajun spin on it. I called that gumbo diplomacy.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield: (25:28)
Wherever I was posted around the world, I’d invite people of different backgrounds and beliefs to help me make a roux and chop onions for the Holy Trinity and make homemade gumbo. It was my way of breaking down barriers, connecting with people, and starting to see each other on a human level. A bit of lagniappe is what we say in Louisiana. That’s the charge in front of us today. The challenges we face, a global pandemic, a global economy, a global climate change crisis, mass migration and extreme poverty, social justice are unrelenting and interconnected, but they’re not unresolvable if America is leading the way. Thank you.
Jake Sullivan : (26:36)
Mr. President elect, Madam Vice President elect, thank you. Mr. President elect, I am honored and humbled by the immense responsibility that you’ve placed in me of being your National Security Advisor. I pledge to you and to the American people that I will work relentlessly in service of the mission you have given us to keep our country and our people safe, to advance our national interests, and to defend our values. I pledge to the exceptional national security team you see behind me and to the brilliant and diverse career professionals across our government, that I will manage a humane and rigorous decision making process that honors their work. And I pledge to my parents who taught my brothers, my sister and me to work hard, tell the truth, and serve others, that I will do my utmost to make you proud. Sir, we will be vigilant in the face of enduring threats from nuclear weapons to terrorism, but you have also tasked us with re-imagining our national security for the unprecedented combination of crises we face at home and abroad.
Jake Sullivan : (27:47)
The pandemic, the economic crisis, the climate crisis, technological disruption, threats to democracy, racial injustice, and inequality in all forms. The work of the team behind me today will contribute to progress across all of these fronts. You have also tasked us with putting people at the center of our foreign policy. You’ve told us that the alliances we rebuild, the institutions we lead, the agreements we sign, all of them should be judged by a basic question. Will this make life better, easier, safer for families across this country? Our foreign policy has to deliver for these families. And perhaps most importantly, you’ve tasked us with helping unite America, as you said in your remarks through our work to pull people together to tackle big challenges. My wife Maggie, the love of my life and my partner in all things, served as a Senior Advisor to Senator John McCain. She and I shared this commitment to common ground deep in our bones.
Jake Sullivan : (28:51)
To the American people, I have the honor of serving as Joe Biden’s security advisor when he was Vice President. I’ve learned a lot about a lot. About diplomacy, about strategy, about policy, but most importantly, about human nature. I watched him pair strength and resolve with humanity and empathy. That is the person America elected, and that is also America at its best. So Mr. President elect, thank you for giving this kid from the heartland and extraordinary opportunity to serve the country I love.
Speaker 3: (29:52)
Mr. President elect, Vice President elect Harris. Thank you, Mr. President elect for your generous words. And most of all, thank you for the-
John Kerry: (30:03)
… Your generous words. And most of all, thank you for the trust and the responsibility of this appointment. I will do all, in my power, to live up to your expectations and to this moment for our country and for the world. And I began by thanking my family for empowering me and encouraging me to take this task on.
John Kerry: (30:28)
Secretary designate Blinken, we’ve worked together for many years on the Foreign Relations Committee and at Foggy Bottom. And it will be a huge pleasure to partner with you again. You will be a terrific secretary. Mr. President-elect you’ve put forward a bold transformative climate plan. But you’ve also underscored that no country alone can solve this challenge. Even the United States, for all of our industrial strength, is responsible for only 13% of global conditions.
John Kerry: (31:06)
To end this crisis, the whole world must come together. You’re right to rejoin Paris on day one. And you’re right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough. At the global meeting in Glasgow, one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together, or we will all fail together. And failure is not an option.
John Kerry: (31:38)
Succeeding together means tapping into the best of American ingenuity, creativity, and diplomacy, from brain power to alternative energy power, using every tool we have to get where we have to go. No one should doubt the determination of this president, vice-president. They shouldn’t doubt the determination of a country that went to the moon, cured, supposedly incurable diseases and beat back global tyranny, beat world war to win World War II. This kind of crisis demands that kind of thing leadership again. And President Biden will provide it.
John Kerry: (32:24)
The road ahead is exciting, actually. It means creating millions of middle-class jobs. It means less pollution in our air or ocean. It means making life healthier for citizens across the world. And it means we will strengthen the security of every nation in the world.
John Kerry: (32:44)
In addressing the climate crisis, President-elect Joe Biden is determined to seize the future now, and leave a healing planet to future generations. 57 years, this week, Joe Biden and I were college kids when we lost the president who inspired both of us to try to make a difference. A president who reminded us that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own. President Joe Biden will trust in God, and he will also trust in science to guide our work on earth to protect God’s creation. Mr. President-elect, the vice-president-elect Harris, I look forward to getting to work. Thank you.
Kamala Harris: (34:00)
Thank you, Secretary Kerry. And congratulations Mr. President-elect on bringing together this extraordinary team. I have always believed in the nobility of public service and these Americans embody it. Their lives and careers are a Testament to the dedication, sacrifice, and commitment to civic responsibility that has strengthened our democracy and kept America’s promise alive for more than 200 years.
Kamala Harris: (34:32)
President-elect Biden and I have long known that when we were elected, we would inherit a series of unprecedented challenges upon walking into the White House. Addressing these challenges starts with getting this pandemic under control, opening our economy responsibly, and making sure it works for working people. And we also know that our challenges will require us here at home to overcome those issues that block our ability to proceed.
Kamala Harris: (35:06)
Our challenge here is a necessary foundation for restoring and advancing our leadership around the world. And we are ready for that work. We will need to reassemble and renew America’s alliances, rebuild and strengthen the national security and foreign policy institutions that keep us safe and advance our nation’s interests. And confront and combat the existential threat of climate change that endangers us all.
Kamala Harris: (35:36)
I take these issues very seriously. My whole career has been about keeping people safe from serving as district attorney to California’s Attorney General to the United States Senate, where I have served on the Intelligence and Homeland Security committees. I’ve come to know firsthand the gravity of the challenges and threats facing the United States. And over the past few months, I’ve also come to know the sound judgment, expertise, and character of the people on this stage. I can say with confidence that they are to a person, the right women and men for these critical positions. And I look forward to working alongside them on behalf of the American people. And on behalf of a president who will ask tough questions, demand that we be guided by facts and expect our team to speak the truth no matter what. A president who will be focused on one thing and one thing only, doing what is best for the people of the United States of America.
Kamala Harris: (36:54)
When Joe asked me to be his running mate, he told me about his commitment, to making sure we selected a cabinet that looks like America, that reflects the best of our nation. And that’s what we have done. Today’s nominees and appointees come from different places. They bring a range of different life and professional experiences and perspectives. And they also share something else in common, and unwavering belief in America’s ideals and unshakeable commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. And they understand the indispensable role of America’s leadership in the world. These women and men are patriots and public servants to their core. And they are leaders, the leaders we need to meet the challenges of this moment and those that lie ahead. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (38:02)
[inaudible 00:38:05]. All right thank you folks. [crosstalk 00: 08:12].