Feb 4, 2021
Joe Biden & Kamala Harris Speak at State Department Transcript February 4
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris joined Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department to deliver remarks on February 4, 2021. Read the full transcript of their speeches here.
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Secretary Blinken: (00:01)
Thank you. Good afternoon. It is my great pleasure to welcome to the State Department for the very first time President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. This is a particularly proud day for me. I know it’s a proud day for everyone here at State. It’s especially meaningful to have with us our newest class of foreign service officers joining us via video. It’s great to see you all. Thank you. Thank you for being here with us today. These women and men represent the extraordinary talent and diversity of America. They’re the future of this department. We’re thrilled that they’ve joined our team. Our president and vice president know how vital the State Department is to America’s security and prosperity. And they know how committed the people of the foreign service and civil service are to serving our nation to the best of their ability every single day.
Secretary Blinken: (01:09)
Mr. President, Madam Vice President, we are grateful to both of you for visiting us so early in the administration despite the remnants of snow outside. We know that you want to make the State Department as strong as it possibly can be for our country. And we know you’re counting on us to deliver excellence for the American people. On behalf of everyone at State, I promise you, we will not let you down.
Secretary Blinken: (01:39)
Now a quick word about Vice President Harris. She’s dedicated her career to the security of the American people. As a district attorney, California attorney general, United States Senator, and now as vice president of the United States. And she fully shares the president’s commitment to crafting a foreign policy that puts diplomacy first, and that keeps our nation safe and delivers real results for the American people. And so it’s my great pleasure to introduce to you the Vice President of the United States.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (02:17)
Thank you, Secretary Blinken. It was my great honor to swear you in last Wednesday. And thank you for the warm welcome, everyone, for me and the president. We are here as one of our highest priorities to thank you for your dedication to our country and the work you have tirelessly been doing. And when I swore in the secretary, you may know that he placed his hand on a copy of the very document that we all swore to protect and defend. And that, of course, is the United States Constitution. And it was a simple, and it is a sacred oath. One many of you, the dedicated staff of the State Department, have taken. And we know that we cannot take those words for granted, to support and defend. Every day, we have to breathe new life into them. That is our duty. As difficult as these past years have been, you have remained committed to democracy, to human rights, and the rule of law. On behalf of our nation, we thank you for your service and for your sacrifice.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (04:11)
Today, we are here in person to tell you that we are committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and accountability, inclusivity, and diplomacy. On the global stage, as a partner and a leader, this is the foundation on which we stand. We build on that foundation, both by what we do abroad, restoring our alliances and supporting international institutions, and also by what we do within our own shores. Our foreign and domestic imperatives are intrinsically linked. Everything you do, every policy you advance, every partnership you forge makes a difference in the lives of everyday Americans. At the same time, our strength in the world depends on your strength and our strength here at home. And that is why we are working to reinforce our democracy, to rescue our nation from this pandemic, to rebuild our economy, to confront racial injustice, and to combat climate change. The world is counting on us. And we as a nation must show both our allies and our adversaries that America will deliver. It’s time to deliver. Again, thank you all for your service. And Secretary Blinken, thank you for your leadership.
Secretary Blinken: (05:51)
Thank you. Thank you so much, Madam Vice President. And now just a brief word about President Biden. No one has ever brought as much foreign policy expertise and experience to the presidency as Joe Biden. For the two decades or so that I’ve worked for him, I’ve just been trying to keep up. From Baghdad to Bagram, from Paris to Pretoria, to so many points in between, it’s been one of the great privileges and pleasures of my life to watch President Biden in action across the globe. And I know from seeing him in action that he believes profoundly in leading with diplomacy, mobilizing our friends and allies to work together in common cause. As important, he welcomes new ideas, dissenting views, rigorous debate. He wants to ensure that our foreign policy stays innovative and creative so it doesn’t just respond to global events, it actually helps to shape them. Those are the instructions that I have from him, that is what we are going to try to do here at the State Department.
Secretary Blinken: (07:39)
And President Biden, Vice President Harris had made it clear that in everything we do, the first question we have to ask ourselves is this, how is it going to benefit our fellow Americans? How will this policy, how will this initiative, how will this outreach answer their needs, their values? How will it make their lives just a little bit better? That’s the first question we have to ask. And we’re going to hold ourselves to that standard every step of the way. We’re lucky to have this president and this vice president at the helm during such a pivotal time for our nation and for the world. And so it’s very much my honor today to introduce to you the president of the United States.
President Joe Biden: (08:25)
Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for welcoming the vice president and me back to the State Department. It’s true the secretary and I have worked together a long time. And I know that he has the background and the capacity needed to, quite frankly, lead the State Department at a critical moment. This has been a difficult few years. I’ve been hanging around on the foreign relations committee and as chairman and then as vice president and now as president for a long time dealing with State. Those of you who work here at occluding the new class of diplomats that are on the screen behind me, you’re among the brightest, most involved, best educated group of people America has to offer. But I come today to talk to everyone at main state watching remotely and those who will not be able to see this, but will hear about it.
President Joe Biden: (09:59)
An incredible group of diplomats that I’ve had a chance to work with. And what we never talk about is you not only have great intellectual capacity, you have a great personal courage. I’ve been with some of you when we’ve been shot at, I’ve been with some of you when we’ve been in places that you would not have any idea you’d want to be when you were going to school of foreign policy and foreign service, they never told you that was going to happen. But you’re an incredible group of individuals. And I’ve said many times over the years, those of you who are stationed overseas and have been stationed overseas, you’re America’s face. You’re what people see in the country you are. They look at you, you are the face of America. And it matters. It matters a great deal how you comport yourself and how you deal with the folks that you’re dealing with in that particular country.
President Joe Biden: (10:55)
I find that many of you among the most, and by the way, I think what we don’t do enough, we don’t thank your families. We don’t thank your families for the sacrifices they make. They make real sacrifices. I don’t know how many times I have moved again, moved to see to it that your spouses, they give up their careers many times to follow you. Many times, their careers are as consequential or more consequential than yours, but they do it for the country. And they’re to be thanked. But the main message that I want to communicate to you all is that whether you’re part of the newest class of foreign service officers or you’ve worked for decades in the civil service or foreign service or you’re locally employed staff, you’re vital in the success. The strength of our nation depends in no small part on you.
President Joe Biden: (11:55)
Later today, I’m going to go up on the eighth floor and send a clear message to the world. America is back. America is back. Diplomacy is back. You are the center of all that I intend to do. You are the heart of it. We’re going to rebuild our alliances, we’re going to re-engage the world and take on the enormous challenge that we face dealing with a pandemic, dealing with global warming. And again, standing up for democracy and human rights around the world. Again, as I said, you’re the face of America abroad. And in our administration, you’re going to be trusted and you’re going to be empowered, trusted and empowered to do your job.
President Joe Biden: (12:49)
But I ask each of you to abide by a few core tenants. Integrity in all you do. Let me say it again, integrity in all you do. Transparency and accountability to rebuild trust in America around the world. Working in the service of the American people, not self-interest. And promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility across the board because our diplomats at all levels should reflect the full diversity of this great country. I know how much we ask of you and your families. And I mean that, I do know. It’s been a long time I’ve been dealing with this building and all of your predecessors. The sacrifices you make are real and not recognized much by the country as a whole. They don’t know all that you do. I also know that you’ve never let us down. I believe in you. I believe in you. We need you badly. I trust you. I’m going to have your back, that I promise you. Just like you’re going to have the backs of the American people.
President Joe Biden: (14:11)
What I always point out to people, in the years when I was chairman of the foreign relations committee, I’d make sure that my foreign relations committee staff came to my home state and worked on constituent services, which many of them thought was sort of beneath them. “I’m a foreign policy specialist.” But it’s all about who you work for, who I work for, who we work for. And the foreign policy’s about promoting the interest of the people of the United States when a rubric and a set principles to treat everyone with decency. So I promise you I’m going to have your back. I promise you. And I expect you to have the back of the American people.
President Joe Biden: (15:06)
Now, I’ve got a lot of work to do, and a lot of catching up to do, a lot of rebuilding to do. And I can’t think of any group of people better capable of doing it, more ready than all of you. So thank you, thank you, thank you. I look forward to working with you, I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to coming back when this auditorium is filled and no one has to wipe down the podium. So again, folks, thank you. You are the heart and soul of who we are as a country. And the rest of the world is looking to you to help them understand us, and so we can help them as well. So thank you all very much. And may God bless you and may God keep you all safe when you’re abroad. Thank you.