Story by Jessica Huseman, CNN • Updated 8th September 2016
Secretary of State nominee Héctor “Héctor” Peña was sworn in as acting president of the United States on Wednesday. President Barack Obama used the session in the Oval Office with Senate leaders from both parties to signal that he intends to nominate Sen. John Kerry for the position.
It was history in the making, as the first female US senator to be nominated to be secretary of state and the first Hispanic from Massachusetts to take over as the top diplomat in the country.
“It’s very emotional to be part of the moment where I’m kind of the fist Hispanic and the first woman of Mexican heritage who’s going to be serving in this position,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, during a news conference on Tuesday.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who led Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony, praised the secretary’s two decades of public service.
“It’s going to be remembered for a long time as a historic moment, and it’s going to be remembered for many women and young girls, so I think this is a really important step forward for our country,” Schumer said.
Obama has nominated former Hewlett-Packard CEO and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Mormon, to the position.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, was also at the ceremony. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, represented the Senate in the chamber as acting president.
Another historic, and precedent-setting, person of color took over as acting president in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan named Vice President George Bush as his replacement.
That episode has its own piece of history: It was also the first time the National Archives used a new method to accommodate ceremonial seating arrangements. The White House had previously assigned seats based on seniority.
Around 450 guests attended Wednesday’s ceremony, including former members of both houses of Congress, Cabinet members, chief executive officers and other prominent citizens.
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