WASHINGTON – Despite the daunting challenges she faces as new secretary of State, Hillary Clinton poked fun at herself and at her husband, Bill during her swearing-in on Monday.
"I'm so grateful to him for a lifetime of all kinds of experiences," said Clinton, pausing in the middle of her phrase before finishing it on a harder tone at an elite ceremony in the State Department.
Her joke drew hearty laughter from a group of diplomats, politicians and a leading comedian as well as her mother, daughter Chelsea and the ex-president, his ruddy cheeks and white hair a match with his red-and-white-striped tie.
On a more serious note, Clinton also thanked her husband for a life of "extraordinary richness that I am absolutely beholden to and grateful for."
Clinton's presidency from 1993 to 2001 was marked by dramatic ups and downs, including his affair with the young intern Monica Lewinsky for which he was impeached.
In a soul-baring interview during the presidential campaign more than a year ago, Clinton said she never doubted her husband's love for her, despite the former president's infidelity.
Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, who along with President Barack Obama were all fierce rivals for the Democratic party's nomination for president, wondered aloud how they all ended up on the same team.
"This has been an amazing personal journey," she said.
"As Joe laughingly referenced, neither one of us thought that we would be standing here together, doing what we are now doing together," she said, standing near Biden, who administered the oath over a Bible Bill Clinton held.
"Life has a funny way of unfolding and politics is even stranger," the chief U.S. diplomat said.
"So we are joined in this incredible mission on behalf of our president and our country," she added in a ceremony that followed a small, private one the day the Senate confirmed her on Jan. 21.
Clinton also struck a light note when she addressed the senators in the ornate Benjamin Franklin Room who are in charge of appropriating funds for government agencies like the State Department.
"And I look forward to working with all of you, particularly the appropriators," said Clinton, triggering laughter.
Clinton's predecessors — Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Madeleine Albright — attended what amounted to a relaxed event where children mingled with the elite who held a glass of wine or a cocktail.
In the run-up to the ceremony, Baker, who worked for President George H.W. Bush, spied Kissinger, the proverbial wiseman who has been doling out advice on foreign affairs ever since serving president Richard Nixon in the 1970s.
"Henry, Henry, Henry!" Baker called loudly before walking briskly over to the octogenarian and putting an arm around his shoulder to chat.
Baker had just left the side of Chevy Chase, a television and film comedian who has a following in the United States and overseas.
When the announcement came that the swearing-in ceremony would start, the tall, bespectacled gray-haired actor raised his cell phone and pretended to be speaking to Obama.
"I'm sorry, Mr. President, I have to turn it off," Chase said.
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