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Special Event

Colin Powell Addresses State Department Employees on First Day at Work

Aired January 22, 2001 - 8:21 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We go to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who decided to take the microphone after all. Let's see what he has to say to his new staff there.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. On behalf of the dedicated career professionals of the United States Department of State, Foreign Service, Civil Service and Foreign Service National, I welcome and present to you the 65th secretary of state, Colin L. Powell.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE-DESIGNEE: Thank you. Thank you and good morning. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Well, thank you so very, very much, my colleagues. I'm sorry I'm late.

(LAUGHTER)

I don't like to keep the troops waiting, but forgive me. And I thank you for this wonderful greeting. It's so marvelous, I think we ought to do it again tomorrow.

(LAUGHTER)

I never got anything like this in the Pentagon, and that's why I am so glad now to be a member of this great State family. I'm deeply honored...

(APPLAUSE)

I'm deeply honored that President Bush nominated me to be the 65th secretary of state. I'm very, very pleased to be following in the foot steps of all who went before me, and especially in the foot steps of a good friend of mine, Secretary Madeleine Albright, who served this nation with such distinction over the past eight years as well.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to begin by thanking everyone who helped me over the last month, as I made my transition into the department. As you know, I was the head of my own transition team and we only brought a few people in here. We didn't want to come in with strike teams racing all over the building to rip up everything you've done. We figured that we were inheriting a group of distinguished professionals in the foreign service, the civil service and the foreign service nationals who worked for the United States government. And what we had to do was to understand what you have done so successfully over the years, let you know that there will be consistency, there will be some coherence in our foreign policy, but also let you know that there will be changes coming. That's what elections are all about.

And as I have said to President Bush, I was deeply impressed with the quality of the people I found here, the quality analysis. And I said to him again, right after the inauguration and the parade -- that wet parade on Saturday afternoon -- "Mr. President, I'm going to work and you have got a department standing behind you, sir, ready to do whatever you want to do to further the interests of the American people." And I know that I can count on you to do that for him.

We're going to have a great time together. You will have to forgive me if I occasionally lapse back into my original language, which is infantry.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

So from time to time, some of the notes that I have coming out and some of the language I might use may require some deciphering, but I brought some great professionals here with me to help in that translation effort.

You'll also find that I like to hear things directly. I'm going to be asking so many of you to come up and tell me directly what you think. I want to try to make things move faster, cut through things more quickly. You are the experts. You know what's going on. You know your accounts better than I know your accounts. And I want to hear from you as directly as I can with a minimum number of layers in between. So I hope that is consistent with what you want to do.

(APPLAUSE)

I also think I know a little bit about organizations. I've run one or two in the course of my career. And as I said to the committee that had my confirmation hearings last week, the Senator Foreign Relations Committee, I've got to empower you to do the people's work. We're coming in with a few political appointees. We're taking over a great group of company commanders, battalion commanders, sergeants, privates, all working together, and what I have to do is put you in the best possible position to be empowered to do what you know to do for the service of the nation. And so I'm going to be doing everything I can to make your jobs easier to do.

I'm not coming in just to be the foreign policy adviser to the president, although that is what the principle title is. I'm not just coming in to serve the foreign policy needs of the American people. I'm coming in as the leader and the manager of this department and the only way I can do that... (APPLAUSE)

And so I want you to know that I will do everything I can to give you what you need to do, to make sure that all of the units that we have around the world doing the people's business get what they need to do that work. It will start this morning when I visit with some of my new friends in the White House who I pigeonholed at every inaugural ball and party I want to this weekend. I found the OMB director.

Come here, son.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

The chief of staff of the White House was ducking me at every turn. I said, "Come here, Andy Card, I want to talk to you," and he kept going, you know, one of those Dracula things, "Stay away." But I'm going to do everything I can to fight for what you need because it's not just what you need, it's what the American people need. We're going to show a vision to the world of the value system of America, what we're all about, what democracy and freedom is all about. It works. The other systems do not work. We're not going to shove it down your throat. We're going to give you the power of our example. We're going to show you what you can have if you will follow in this line of democracy and getting rid of conflicts and empowering your people and believing, as we do, that every individual in the world has a destiny that that individual should be allowed to pursue, and that's what democracy does, that's what the free enterprise system does.

We're going to talk about these values all the time and hope that it is the light that we send forth that will influence people around the world. And we'll do it from a position of strength, our political strength, our economic strength, our military strength and above all, our diplomatic strength. And that's what we're all going to be about.

We're going to have a great time. I thank you for receiving me so warmly and I look forward to our days together ahead. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

LIN: Secretary of State-designee Colin Powell, yet to be sworn in, so technically he is not officially the secretary of state yet, but certainly arriving on his first day of work to a rousing welcome of applause as employees line the banisters and two floors.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

POWELL: Now go to work.

LIN: The boss there telling everybody to go to work. Colin Powell exhibiting some of his infamous charisma and charm that he demonstrated for a long time on the lecture circuit, but promising -- and admitting that he was late to work, and promising that as secretary of state that he feels that he is inheriting a distinguished group of professionals, that he is not there to wholesale get rid of many of the people who worked under the Clinton-Gore administration for eight years, but, in fact, try to take advantage of some of their expertise.

And, as usual, any time a new CEO takes over, there will be reviews as to how people will be moved and placed. But in the meantime, he said that he is going to be meeting with his new friends at the White House, looking for additional funding for the mission of the State Department. We shall see.

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