As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was approving the nomination of Condoleezza Rice, outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell was delivering a farewell to State Department employees and staff. He said the State Department "family" has much to be proud of in its achievements of the past four years.
Mr. Powell has been and remains one of the most popular figures in American politics, and he drew sustained ovations from the State Department staff during and after a farewell message delivered in the department's main lobby. The outgoing Secretary's term at the State Department was preceded by 35 years of Army service. He called the State Department's global work force of some 30,000 Americans and foreign nationals "foot soldiers" in a worldwide foreign policy effort. He said they have much to look back upon with satisfaction, including how they responded to the challenge of terrorism thrust upon the United States with the attacks of September 11 of 2001.
"How we have responded and pulled together the world in this threat to civilization, how we have succeeded in getting rid of two of the most despotic regimes on the face of the earth in Kabul and in Baghdad," said Colin Powell. "And even though the task is difficult, how we will see to it that these two nations, Afghanistan and Iraq, have the freedom and democracy that their people richly deserve. And that will happen. You had a lot to do with that."
Mr. Powell said differences with Moscow over missile defense early in the Bush administration were overcome and that U.S.-Russia relations are now on a "new strategic footing." Similarly, he said a collision between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter jet in April 2001 threatened to put Sino-American relations into a deep freeze. But he said through patient diplomacy and listening to each other, the U.S. relationship with Beijing is now in its best shape in decades.
Mr. Powell also cited, among other things, successful U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to halt civil conflicts in Haiti and Liberia, and diplomacy that helped reach the agreement he witnessed being signed in Kenya earlier this month to end Sudan's north-south civil war.
Before the farewell speech, Mr. Powell had a final meeting with senior staff members, who had chipped in to buy for him the chair he used for cabinet meetings at the White House. He also made a series of farewell calls to overseas colleagues including the foreign ministers France, Germany and Russia.
Mr. Powell will attend Thursday's second inaugural ceremony for President Bush. He is to officially leave office later in the day when the full Senate is expected to confirm the nomination of Ms. Rice, and she takes the oath of office as the 66th U.S. Secretary of State.