Clinton in Kabul, July 7, 2012
Clinton reacts during a joint news conference in Kabul July 7, 2012. The United States has named Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally, Clinton said on Saturday, a move that could reinforce Washington's message to Afghans that they will not be abandoned as the war winds down. Reuters/Omar Sobhani

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Good afternoon, everyone. Madam Secretary, four years ago, I stood on this same spot and had the honor of introducing you to the men and women of the Department of State. From that first day on, you’ve touched the lives of millions and millions of people around the world, you have left a profoundly positive mark on American foreign policy, and you have done enormous good for all of us and for the country we serve. We will miss you deeply, but none of us – (applause) – but none of us will ever forget your extraordinary leadership, and each of us will always be deeply proud to say that we served in Hillary Clinton’s State Department. (Applause.)

And so now it’s my great honor to introduce, one last time, the 67th secretary of state of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. Well, just standing here looking out at all of you, the people I have been honored to serve and lead and work with over the last four years, is an incredible experience.

When I came into this building as the Secretary of State four years ago and received such a warm welcome, I knew there was something really special about this place, and that having the honor to lead the State Department and USAID would be unique and singular, exciting and challenging. It has been all of those things and so much more. I cannot fully express how grateful I am to those with whom I have spent many hours here in Washington, around the world, and in airplanes. (Laughter.)

But I’m proud of the work we’ve done to elevate diplomacy and development, to serve the nation we all love, to understand the challenges, the threats, and the opportunities that the United States faces, and to work with all our heart and all of our might to make sure that America is secure, that our interests are promoted, and our values are respected. As I look back over these past four years, I am very proud of the work we have done together.

Of course, we live in very complex and even dangerous times, as we saw again just today at our Embassy in Ankara, where we were attacked and lost one of our Foreign Service nationals and others injured. But I spoke with the Ambassador and the team there, I spoke with my Turkish counterpart, and I told them how much we valued their commitment and their sacrifice.

I know that the world we are trying to help bring into being in the 21st century will have many difficult days, but I am more optimistic today than I was when I stood here four years ago, because I have seen, day after day, the many contributions that our diplomats and development experts are making to help ensure that this century provides the kind of peace, progress, and prosperity that not just the United States, but the entire world, especially young people, so richly deserve. I am very proud to have been Secretary of State.

I will miss you. I will probably be dialing Ops just to talk. (Laughter and applause.) I will wonder what you all are doing, because I know that because of your efforts day after day, we are making a real difference. But I leave this Department confident – confident about the direction we have set, confident that the process of the QDDR, which we started for the first time, has enabled us to ask hard questions about what we do, how we do it, and whether we can do it even better. Because State and AID have to always be learning organizations. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the President, we owe it to the American people. And so I will be an advocate from outside for the work that you continue to do here and at AID.

So it’s been quite a challenging week saying goodbye to so many people and knowing that I will not have the opportunity to continue being part of this amazing team. But I am so grateful that we’ve had a chance to contribute in each of our ways to making our country and our world stronger, safer, fairer, and better.

Those of you who are staying, as many of you will, please know that I hope you will redouble your efforts to do all that you can to demonstrate unequivocally why diplomacy and development are right up there with defense; how, when we think about who we are as Americans, it’s because we are united and committed across our government to do whatever is required to fulfill the missions we have assumed as public officials and public servants.

So next week, I would expect that all of you will be as focused and dedicated for Secretary Kerry as you have been for me, and that you will continue to serve President Obama and our nation with the same level of professionalism and commitment that I have seen firsthand.

On a personal basis, let me wish all of you the very best, whether you’ve been here a week or 30 or even 40 years, Pat. (Laughter.) Let me give you the very best wishes that I can, because I’m proud to have been a part of you. I leave thinking of the nearly 70,000 people that I was honored to serve and lead as part of a huge extended family. And I hope that you will continue to make yourselves, make me, and make our country proud.

Thank you all, and God bless you. (Applause.)