President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday at least implicitly rebuked President Trump’s “America First” attitude as the former VP introduced his first Cabinet and administration picks for national security and foreign policy positions.
In emphasizing the importance of America working with its allies, Biden highlighted his personal connections to each of his cabinet picks, as well as the diversity of his selections.
America is back.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 24, 2020
The President-elect touted his cabinet picks’ “unmatched experience and accomplishments.” The country can’t meet challenges with “old thinking and unchanged habits,” Biden said as he stressed a number of “firsts” in choosing them.
“We’re going to have the first woman lead the intelligence community; first Latino immigrant to lead Department of Homeland Security; and groundbreaking diplomat at the United Nations,” Biden said. “We’re going to have a principal on the National Security Council whose job is to fight climate change for the first time ever that will occur. And my national security team will be coordinated by one of the youngest national security advisers in decades.”
Biden praised Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken for being one of his “closest, most trusted advisers” and said that he personally knows his family, who are immigrants.
“I know him and his family, immigrants and refugees, Holocaust survivor who taught him to never take for granted the very idea of America as a place of possibilities,” Biden said.
Blinken described how his grandfather fled Russia. His father served in the Air Force in World War II and later as an ambassador. His mother fled communist Hungary and helped future refugees come to U.S. And his late stepfather was the only one of 900 children in his school in Poland to survive the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps.
Biden touted Alejandro Mayorcas, his nominee for secretary of Homeland Security, for taking on “one of the hardest jobs in government” of not only keeping the country safe from threats domestically and abroad, but also playing “a critical role fixing our broken immigration system.”
Mayorcas emphasized in his remarks that his “father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism.”
“They cherished our democracy and were intensely proud to become United States citizens,” Mayorcas said. “I have carried that pride throughout my nearly 20 years of government service and throughout my life.”
Biden introduced Linda Thomas-Greenfield, his choice for UN Ambassador, as “a seasoned, distinguished diplomat” with 35 years in foreign service “who never forgot where she came from, growing up in segregated Louisiana.”
“Eldest of eight, her dad couldn’t read or write. She says he was the smartest person she knew,” Biden said. “First in her family to graduate high school, then college. The whole world literally ahead of her as dad and mom taught her to believe.”
After Biden praised Thomas-Greenfield for being “known as the people’s ambassador” and serving as the top State Department official in charge of African policy during the Ebola crisis, Greenfield began her remarks by highlighting how she learned from her family much like the President-elect and VP-elect Kamala Harris.
“My parents had very little back in Louisiana where I grew up, but they gave me and my siblings everything they had, and I know how proud they would be of this day,” Greenfield said.
Greenfield added that she likes to put a “Cajun spin” in her 35 years of foreign service across four continents, which she calls “gumbo diplomacy.”
“Wherever I was posted around the world, I would invite people of different backgrounds and beliefs to help me make a roux, chop onions for the holy Trinity, make homemade gumbo,” Greenfield said. “It was my way of breaking down barriers, connecting with people, and starting to see each other on a human level. That’s the charge in front of us today.”
In introducing his pick for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, Biden brought up how his upbringing in Minnesota means that his nominee understands his vision that “economic security is national security.”
Biden also broke precedent as he introduced John Kerry as the first presidential envoy on climate.
“As for the man himself, if I had a former secretary of state that helped negotiate Paris climate accord, former presidential nominee, former leading senator or head of major climate organization for the job, I would show my commitment to the United States and the whole world,” Biden said. “The fact that I picked the one person who is all these things speaks unambiguously to my commitment.”
Kerry later reaffirmed Biden’s commitment to address the climate crisis that requires the kind of leadership that led the country to landing on the moon, curing diseases and beating “back global tyranny to win World War II.”
Kerry also stressed that Biden “will trust in God and he will also trust in science to guide our work on Earth to protect God’s creation.”
Harris closed out the announcement of the incoming administration’s Cabinet picks by highlighting that Biden “selected a cabinet that looks like America, that reflects the best of our nation, and that’s what we have done.”
“Today’s nominees and appointees come from different places, they bring a range of different life and professional experiences and perspectives,” Harris said. “And they also share something else in common, an unwavering belief in America’s ideals and unshakeable commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. And they understand the indispensable role of America’s leadership in the world.”