President Bush went to the State Department Friday to attend the ceremonial swearing-in of his former National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, as the 66th U.S. Secretary of State. Ms. Rice said U.S. diplomacy should be used to help create a "balance of power that favors freedom."
Ms. Rice was actually sworn into office in a private ceremony late Wednesday, just after her confirmation by the Senate. But the oath-taking was repeated Friday in a State Department ballroom.
The event was attended by President Bush, members of Congress and the Washington diplomatic corps, with the oath of office administered by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a neighbor and friend of the new Secretary.
Ms. Rice is the second African-American to be Secretary of State, after her predecessor Colin Powell, and the second woman to hold the post, the first having been the Clinton administration's Madeleine Albright.
In his remarks, President Bush said Ms. Rice has an abiding belief in the power of democracy to secure justice and liberty, and the inclusion of people of all races and religions in what he termed "the courses that free nations chart for themselves."
He said these convictions will be confirmed by the people of Iraq when they cast ballots Sunday in the country's first free election in decades, an event he said will be a "powerful example" for reformers throughout the Middle East.
Citing the recent elections in Afghanistan, Ukraine and among the Palestinians, the President said freedom is on the march, but meeting resistance from its enemies including Iraqi insurgents: "Hatred and radicalism cannot survive the advent of freedom and self-government. Our nation will be more secure, the world will be more peaceful as freedom advances," he said. "Condi Rice understands that. And the terrorists understand that as well, and that is why they are now attacking Iraqi civilians in an effort to sabotage elections. We applaud the courage of ordinary Iraqis for their refusal to surrender their future to these killers.
Ms. Rice for her part, echoed the themes of the President's inaugural address last week in which he outlined a vision of spreading democracy and ending tyranny world-wide.
The new secretary said the United States under President Bush had risen to meet the challenges following the attacks of 2001, and that American diplomacy must now be used to help create "a balance of power that favors freedom:"
"September 11th, 2001 made us see more clearly than ever how our values and our interests are linked and joined across the globe," she said. "That day of fire made us see that the best way to secure a world of peace and hope is to build a world of freedom. We do not simply seek the absence of terrorism. We seek a world where the aspirations for freedom of men and women triumph."
Ms. Rice, in an apparent allusion to criticism that the Bush inaugural speech meant an aggressive drive to impose U.S. values, said it is a time for diplomacy and that the "primary instrument" of administration foreign policy will be the State Department.
Ms. Rice is due to make her first overseas foray as secretary next week with an eight-day tour of Europe and the Middle East. The trip is aimed at repairing strained ties with U.S. allies and adding momentum to promising developments in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.