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Rice Fills 'Big Shoes' at State Department

America's first black woman secretary of state took the ceremonial oath of office Friday surrounded by family and friends, some who had traveled from her native Alabama, as well as the president, first lady and a Supreme Court justice.

Condoleezza Rice's (search) uncle, Alto Ray, and two aunts, Genoa McPhatter and Mattie Bonds, held the Bible for the ceremony in the State Department's formal dining room. Her parents are deceased.

Right after she thanked President Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, Rice thanked her family and friends.

"They represent generations of Rices and Rays who believed that a day like this might somehow be possible," she said.

Rice, 50, was born in the segregated South. Her resume is filled with firsts, including being the youngest provost of Stanford University (search). She has been Bush's White House national security adviser for four years and, as Bush noted Friday, a family friend.

"Our family has been enriched by our friendship with this remarkable person," Bush said. "We love her," he added. "I don't know if you're supposed to say that about the secretary of state."

It was her second swearing-in. The first was in a private ceremony Wednesday night at the White House with White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. (search) officiating.

"Condi has an abiding belief in the power of democracy to secure justice and liberty and the inclusion of men and women of all races and religions in the courses that free nations chart for themselves," Bush said.

Rice pledged to use diplomacy to spread democracy. "You have given us our mission, and we are ready to serve our great country and the cause of freedom for which it stands," she said.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (search), a neighbor in Washington's Watergate apartment building, administered the 137-year-old oath on Friday.

Both Bush and Rice paid tribute in their remarks to Colin Powell (search), who was secretary of state in Bush's first term.

"Colin Powell leaves big shoes to fill at the State Department, but Condi Rice is the right person to fill them," Bush said.

Rice will take her first trip abroad as secretary of state next week. She has several stops in Europe and talks in Israel and the West Bank. The Middle East visits follow a promise she made to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearings that she would become personally involved in efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

It will be a brief visit, tucked between European stops and confined to meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. There are no planned diversions to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Iraq.

The aim is to measure the likelihood of generating momentum to drive Israel and the Palestinians to the peace table.