By MOLLY NAGLE and JOHN VERHOVEK, ABC News
(WILMINGTON, Del.) — President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally announced their team of foreign policy and national security officials that will lead their administration’s efforts to deliver on Biden’s long held campaign pledge to restore America’s standing on the world stage.
Speaking in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden and Harris were joined on stage by their picks for top-tier government positions, including Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejando Mayorkas and Avril Haines, Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence.
Also joining the group were Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s nominee for U.N. ambassador; Jake Sullivan, nominee for national security adviser; and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who will be joining the Biden administration as the special presidential envoy for climate.
“It’s a team that will keep our country and people safe and secure, and it’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” Biden said, in reference to President Donald Trump’s opposing “America first” approach. “Once again, [we will] sit at the head of the table, ready to confront our adversaries and not reject our allies — ready to stand up for our values.”
In a nod to the historic nature of a number of his picks, Biden said the picks he unveiled Tuesday represented “an unrelenting belief in the promise of America”
“The team meets this moment, this team behind me. They embody my core beliefs that America is strongest when it works with its allies,” Biden said. “Collectively, this team has secured some of the most defining national security and diplomatic achievements in recent memory, made possible through decades of experience working with our partners.”
Blinken, a longtime Biden foreign policy hand, spoke directly to the rank-and-file members of the State Department in his remarks, and recounted his own stepfather’s story of escaping the Holocaust, a story he said reflects the message America should send to the world.
“That’s who we are. That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly. Now we have to proceed with equal measures of humility and confidence. Humility because, as the president-elect said, we can’t solve all the world’s problems alone. We need to be working with other countries,” Blinken said.
Mayorkas, who would be the first Latino and first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security, also recalled his family’s story and how it will guide his decision-making.
“I’m proud that for the first time ever the department will be led by an immigrant, a Latino, who knows that we are a nation of laws and values,” Mayorkas said.
Expected to be the first woman to lead America’s intelligence community, Haines pledged to represent the “patriots” that comprise the intelligence community, and said her charge as the next director of national intelligence will be to “speak truth to power,” adding she knows that Biden respects the opinion of the intelligence committee.
“I’ve worked for you for a long time and I accept this nomination knowing that … you value the perspective of the intelligence community, and that you will do so even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult, and I assure you there will be those times,” Haines said with Biden standing alongside her.
Thomas-Greenfield, who would be the second Black woman to serve as the United States ambassador to the United Nations, also delivered a message to diplomats and public servants globally in her remarks.
“On this day I’m thinking about the American people, my fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world. I want to say to you, America is back. Multilateralism is back,” said Thomas-Greenfield, who also referenced her roots growing up in the segregated South.
Biden also praised Sullivan, who served as his national security adviser when he was vice president, as having a “once-in-a-generation intellect” and noted the wealth of experience Sullivan possesses and the role he’s played as a key policy adviser for his successful 2020 presidential campaign.
“You’ve told us that the alliances we rebuild, the institutions we lead, the agreements we sign, all of them should be judged by a basic question: Will this make life better, easier, safer for families across this country? Our foreign policy has to deliver for these families,” Sullivan said at the event.
Biden also spoke about the historic nature of Kerry’s position in his administration, focusing on climate change as a national security issue.
“For the first time ever, we will have a presidential envoy on climate. He will be matched with high-level White House climate policy coordinator and policymaking structure, to be announced in December, and that will lead efforts here in the United States to combat the climate crisis, mobilize action to meet the existential threat that we face,” Biden said of Kerry’s role.
“Let me be clear. I don’t, for a minute, underestimate the difficulties of meeting my bold commitments to fighting climate change,” Biden continued. “But at the same time, no one should underestimate for a minute my determination to do just that.”
The former secretary of state, who had a hand in negotiating the Paris Climate Accord during the Obama administration, noted Biden’s desire to address climate change more fulsomely on the global level.
“At the global meeting in Glasgow one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together or we will all fail together, and failure is not an option. Succeeding together means tapping into the best of American ingenuity, creativity, and diplomacy — from brain power to alternative energy power, using every tool we have to get where we have to go. No one should doubt the determination of this president and vice president,” Kerry said.
As he outlined the qualifications of his national security and foreign policy team, Biden also said he was “pleased” that the General Services Administration, after a more than two-week delay, allowed his transition team to access the government resources afforded to him as president-elect.
“I’m pleased to have received the ascertainment from GSA to carry out a smooth and peaceful transition of power, so our teams can prepare to meet the challenges at hand — to control the pandemic, to build back better and to protect the safety and security of the American people,” Biden said.
Biden also looked ahead to the next step in the nomination process: Senate confirmation.
“I hope these outstanding nominees receive a prompt hearing, and that we can work across the aisle in good faith to move forward for the country,” Biden said. “Let’s begin that work to heal and unite, to heal and unite America, as well as the world.”
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