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Clinton shines on first day as secretary of state

WASHINGTON - On her first day as secretary of state,

Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday did what she does best: She used her star quality to shine attention on a State Department that felt it had been in the shadows for far too long.

With a broad smile, Clinton won excited, almost giddy, applause and cheers from hundreds of diplomats, foreign service officers and staff as she worked a rope line in the department's packed main lobby yesterday morning.

- Click to see photos of Hillary Clinton getting cheered, and her speech

Her much anticipated and watched arrival was a moment President Barack Obama could not pass up - he dedicated yesterday to making a sharp break from the past eight years of foreign policy.

As if to underscore Clinton's role both as the high-profile public face of U.S. diplomacy, and as a member of his team of rivals, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden paid an unusually early visit to Foggy Bottom.

"I've given you an early gift: Hillary Clinton. In her, you will have a secretary of state who has my full confidence," Obama told State Department diplomats and staff yesterday afternoon.

"My appearance today," he continued, "underscores my commitment to the importance of diplomacy and renewing American leadership."

On the day he signed orders to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, to reassess trials of detainees and to outlaw torture, Obama also appointed two new special envoys to the most troubled spots in the world.

But in keeping with protocol and teamwork, he allowed Clinton to introduce George Mitchell, who will try to broker peace in the Middle East, and Richard Holbrooke, who will work on the troubled countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The president and I feel very grateful for the willingness of both of these extraordinary Americans to serve," Clinton said.

Though she hoped to be president, and already had spent eight years in the White House as first lady and another eight years as New York senator, Clinton appeared comfortable in her new role.

She showed up at 9:15 a.m. and after a short ceremony, went to her office and phoned her counterparts in other countries, including Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. She then took an intelligence briefing and toured the building before holding a closed meeting with Obama, Biden and national security advisers.

Though it was a day of smiles and camera flashes, the uncertainty and gravity of international affairs weighed heavy. "This is not going to be easy," she said, upon arriving. "I don't want anybody to leave this extraordinarily warm reception thinking, 'Oh, good,' you know, 'this is going to be great!' It's going to be hard."

- Click to see photos of Hillary Clinton getting cheered, and her speech

- Click to see photos of Hillary Clinton through the decades

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