WASHINGTON (Talon News) — Dr. Condoleezza Rice was sworn in as the 66th Secretary of State in a ceremony on Friday at the State Department. During the first Bush term, Rice served as the national security advisor and one of the president’s closest confidants.

Rice becomes the first African-American woman to hold the post, which is fourth in line to the presidency. Her selection by Bush made her the highest-ranking black female in American history. She succeeds the first African-American to be the United States’ top diplomat, Colin Powell.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg administered the oath of office to Rice, in front of an array of black leaders, including former U. N. Ambassador Andrew Young and Dr. Dorothy Height.

Rice later commented to Fox News’ Chris Wallace about the significance of her new position, saying, “I think back to the multitude of teachers in segregated Birmingham who took money out of their own pockets to buy textbooks for kids when there weren’t free textbooks for black kids, and I think this is not what I have achieved. This is what a whole generation, the generations of people in places like segregated Alabama achieved, the struggles and the sacrifice.”

At the ceremony, President Bush made personal remarks about the newest cabinet member, saying, “Over the past four years, America has benefited from the wise counsel of Dr. Condoleezza Rice and our family has been enriched by our friendship with this remarkable person. We love her — I don’t know if you’re supposed to say that about the Secretary of State.”

Both Bush and Rice had praise for Powell, who decided to step down after four tumultuous years. The pair lauded his character, dedication and integrity during some of the most challenging periods in American diplomacy.

Rice repeated a phrase from her Senate hearing, “The time for diplomacy is now.”

She continued, “Standing for the cause of liberty is as old as our country itself. Indeed, it was our very first secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, who said, ‘The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.'”

Her remarks appeared to be in sync with the vision articulated by Bush in his inaugural address. Rice said the lesson learned from “the day of fire” was that peace would result from building a world of freedom. Her swearing-in came only two days before the historic Iraqi election.

This is the start of a new day for Iraq,” Rice told Fox News. “Iraqis have taken a huge step forward and they have hard work ahead of them, but this is a great day for the Iraqi people.”

While Rice’s confirmation was never in doubt, Democrats staged 9 hours of debate last week before the Senate vote. Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Mark Dayton (D-MN), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) led the opposition to the nomination, but lost 85-13. Rice was gracious, deflecting a question about the Democrats’ statements, instead thanking the 85 senators who voted to confirm her.

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