WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton formally resigned Friday as America’s secretary of state, capping a four-year tenure that saw her shatter records for the number of countries visited. John Kerry was sworn in to replace her.
In a letter sent to President Obama shortly before she left the State Department for the last time in her official capacity, Clinton thanked her former opponent for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination for the opportunity to serve in his administration. Clinton said it had been an honor to be part of his Cabinet.
“I am more convinced than ever in the strength and staying power of America’s global leadership and our capacity to be a force for good in the world,” she said in the letter.
Her resignation became effective at 4 p.m. EST, when Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan swore in John Kerry as the top U.S. diplomat. The former Massachusetts senator and 2004 presidential candidate is the 68th secretary of state.
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“I’m just very, very honored to be sworn in and I’m very anxious to get to work,” Kerry said after the private ceremony at the Capitol. “I’ll be reporting Monday morning at 9 o’clock to do my part,” he said, but he refused to say what global hot spot he would visit first.
In the State Department’s main lobby, Clinton pushed through a throng of American foreign-service workers who clamored for handshakes and smartphone photos with her and gave an emotional goodbye speech.
She told them to continue to “serve the nation we all love, to understand the challenges, the threats and the opportunities that the United States faces and to work with all our heart and all of our might to make sure that America is secure, that our interests are promoted and our values are respected.”
Clinton, however, also left office with a slap at critics of the Obama administration’s handling of the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. She said in an interview that critics of the administration’s handling of the attack don’t live in an “evidence-based world,” and their refusal to “accept the facts” is unfortunate and regrettable for the political system.
She said the attack in Benghazi was the low point of her time as America’s top diplomat.
But she suggested the furor over the assault would not affect whether she runs for president in 2016.
Although she insisted she has not decided what her future holds, she said she “absolutely” plans to make a difference on issues she cares about in speeches and in a sequel to her 2003 memoir, “Living History,” that will focus largely on her years as secretary of state.
She started what was to have been an easy day of farewell events with a briefing on the suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy, in Ankara, Turkey, followed by phone conversations with the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
She referred to the attack in her farewell address, saying:
“We live in very complex and even dangerous times, as we saw again just today at our embassy in Ankara,” Clinton told State Department employees in her final address.
Material from McClatchy Newspapers is included
in this report.