Antony Blinken began his first full day as U.S. secretary of state on Wednesday promising to repair ties with global partners and show the world that America can lead, while tackling climate change, the erosion of democracies and other complex issues.
Greeted in the lobby and outside by a crowd of State Department employees limited by coronavirus measures, Blinken, who served as No. 2 at the State Department under former Democratic President Barack Obama, was greeted with applause.
"The world is watching us intently right now. They want to know if we can heal our nation. They want to see whether we will lead with the power of our example_ and if we will put a premium on diplomacy with our allies and partners to meet the great challenges of our time," he said.
As challenges he cited the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, the global economy, threats to democracies, fights for racial justice, and the dangers to security and global stability posed by rivals and adversaries.
He did not answer a reporter's question about where in the world he would place the highest priorities.
Past President Donald Trump's "America First" policies frayed Washington's traditional strategic alliances. The January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob further marred America's global standing.
Blinken said the State Department must work to establish a united front with allies to counter the challenges.
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"I know that the State Department I'm walking into today is not the same one I left four years ago," Blinken said. "A lot has changed. The world has changed. The Department has changed. ...The world is watching us intently right now. They want to know if we can heal our nation."
Blinken, a veteran diplomat who is close to newly installed President Joe Biden, was confirmed by the Senate 78-22 on Tuesday and has promised to work on a bipartisan basis in formulating policy.