Who is the Secretary of State?

Secretary of State, John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry

The Secretary of State is the President’s chief advisor on foreign policy. He or she travels around the world to build good relationships, advance American interests, and negotiate treaties and agreements on a vast range of issues.

The United States is unique in calling this position a Secretary of State—most of the Secretary’s counterparts in other nations are known as Foreign Ministers or Foreign Secretaries.

At official state dinners, the Secretary of State is the first Cabinet member to sit next to the President, immediately preceding any former Presidents and former First Ladies, who are followed by the rest of the Cabinet.

The Secretary is responsible for managing the Department of State and all of its overseas missions, including some 67,000 employees in 2011.

The Secretary holds the most senior position in the President’s Cabinet. If the President were to resign or die, the Secretary of State is fourth in line of succession after the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the President pro tempore of the Senate.

There have been 68 Secretaries of State in the nation’s history. Three have been women and two have been African-Americans. In early American history, the position of Secretary was seen as a steppingstone to the Presidency. Six of the early Secretaries of State went on to become President. Secretaries of State have also typically been highly educated. Four had doctoral degrees, and four have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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