The Cabinet post of Secretary of State was once… the springboard to the Presidency. Today, they largely fulfill the President’s role as the nation’s chief diplomat. Rarely are they seen or heard unless on some pan-global mission. What makes a great Secretary of State–timing, deals, and moxie. Here are three great ones:
John Hay- Cut his political teeth as Lincoln’s private secretary, Hay led the State Department during the McKinley and Roosevelt administrations. He was the primary architect of America’s global expansion during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hay was responsible for the Open Door policy in China and the series of treaties that allowed the Panama Canal to be constructed.
James Buchanan- Buchanan is proof that the office is not just a rubber stamp for the President. Buchanan and Polk did not see eye to eye on every issue. At times Polk needed tempered and Buchanan’s ambition needed checked. Together, the two men cut a diplomatic course that nearly doubled the size of the country for a second time.
John Quincy Adams- Largely seen as a failure after losing Presidential reelection, Adams’ diplomatic career is stellar. He helped craft foreign policy during the Monroe adminstration and is widely considered author of the Monroe Doctrine. Adams also negotiated Florida away from Spain, settled our northern boundary with England, and secured American rights in the Oregon territory.