I think that trying to go back in time to January of 2009, if you remember the challenges that we were confronting, particularly the economic crisis, which had such severe impacts here at home but also around the world and had certainly affected the view that people around the world had of American leadership.
So coming into the office along with President Obama and the Administration, I was surprised at how much work we needed to do to reestablish American leadership, to reassure people that the United States would get through the economic crisis, that we would continue to provide leadership on the full range of issues that affect us as well as the rest of the world.
I hadn’t fully grasped how nervous people were until I began traveling in February of ’09 about what they could expect from us. Because even when leaders and societies criticize the United States, there’s always, in my experience, a thread of concern about where we are and what we will do and whether we can continue to represent the values that we’ve stood for, and serve as an inspiration as well as a very strong presence.
So what surprised me most, was how much work we had to do in those early months to reestablish American leadership around the world. And I think we’ve done that. That doesn’t mean everybody agrees with us, and it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot of work to do, primarily here at home. Because any leadership that we try to convey elsewhere has to be rooted in strength at home – economic strength, political strength.