After four years, nearly a million miles traveled and 112 countries visited, Hillary Clinton stepped down as the 67th secretary of state on Friday. But even on this, her final day as America’s top diplomat, she could not escape the questions about what she’ll do four years from now.
Many of the 1,000 employees who gathered to see her off expressed hope that this was not the end of her political career.
“2016! 2016!” the crowd chanted as Clinton waved and drove away. “We’ll Miss You!”
Right before her departure, Clinton gave the traditional farewell speech to staff on the steps of the State Department’s historic C Street Lobby. In a roughly 10 minute, often reflective speech she called the 70,000 State Department employees part of “a huge extended family.”
“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,” she said, drawing laughter from the audience.
Clinton’s trademark sense of humor was on display, even as she grew emotional speaking about how much the State Department had meant to her over the last four years.
“I am very proud to have been secretary of state. I will miss you. I will probably be dialing ops just to talk,” she joked to a cheering and laughing crowd. “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 Clinton also was somber when discussing the danger diplomats and foreign service officers face all over the world, using Thursday’s suicide bombing attack against the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, in which a Turkish guard was killed, as an example.
“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,” said Clinton “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.”
Clinton was flanked by trusted deputies Bill Burns and Tom Nides whom she gave warm hugs to at the end of the speech. With a huge “Thank You” sign behind her she walked a rope line after finishing her speech, greeting the hordes of employees who wanted to shake her hand and say goodbye before she walked out of the State Department as secretary of state for the last time.
“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,” Clinton said. “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.”