Kerry Has High Heels to Fill

February 8, 2013 By Liz Schrayer

As I look back on this week, the changing of the guard at Foggy Bottom as John Kerry took over the reins from Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State certainly stands out. An unwavering proponent of America’s development and diplomatic programs, I have little doubt Secretary Kerry will be a strong voice for American engagement in the world, but as he said on Monday, “I have some big heels to fill.”

As confirmation hearings, budget deliberations and leadership musical chairs continue, here are my top four takeaways from the week:

  1. Kerry Sends Clear Smart Power Signal – Secretary Kerry opened the week speaking to State Department employees about their mission—“We get to try to make our nation safer. We get to try to make peace in the world . . . We get to lift people out of poverty. We get to try to cure disease.” He continued this sentiment at his official swearing in and got to work, calling foreign leaders and meeting with his new team. As we await decisions regarding key positions, here is a quick profile on Secretary Kerry.
  2. New Faces on the Foreign Relations and Affairs Committees –With 50 percent of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and one-third of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee new, we certainly have our work cut out for us. Last week, we hosted Madeleine Albright with seven freshmen Senators, and I was really impressed with their interest in the smart power agenda.  Next week we will be up on the Hill with our leadership to meet the House freshmen and as a precursor to our visit, we sent them this short welcome video with champions like Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Condoleezza Rice talking about the importance of American leadership.
  3. Sequestration is Looming: T-Minus 20 Days and Counting – The budget situation remains incredibly complicated, so last week we put together a Budget Watch blog outlining some different scenarios of what we can expect. If sequestration goes into effect on March 1, it would mean an approximate 5.1% reduction to the International Affairs Budget – this is on top of a 15% cut over the past 3 years! This is very concerning, and as Secretary Kerry told a foreign policy classroom yesterday, “We’re going to have to do a heck of a job persuading Congress, because we’re looking at sequestration, we’re looking at budget deficits, at the very time that the world is asking us to be able to be more engaged and help them make more of a difference in their lives.”
  4. We Welcomed Our New President – I’m thrilled that Carolyn Miles, CEO & President of Save the Children, has agreed to serve as the new co-president of our board, along with Caterpillar’s Bill Lane. Carolyn and Bill will be a dynamic duo in leading our efforts, and I hope you’ll take a moment to hear from Carolyn in this brief video blog.

At this time last week, we couldn’t imagine the Super Bowl could have a 34 minute power outage.  If you thought that was bad, think about the 6 in 10 people in Sub-Saharan Africa who don’t have power at all. This and other fun facts can be viewed in our Super Bowl Infographic.

For those of you in the Northeast, stay safe during the monster blizzard, and I look forward to catching you for the next Smart Power Week in Review.