John Kerry biography
Born in 1943 in Denver, Colorado, John Kerry was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984 and was re-elected in 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008. While serving in the Senate, he has supported free trade, expansive U.S. foreign and military policy, investment in education and environmental protection. In 2004, Kerry lost the presidential election to George W. Bush. He was nominated to be secretary of state by President Barack Obama in 2012.
Born on December 11, 1943, in Denver, Colorado, John Forbes Kerry spent much of his childhood living abroad. His father Richard worked in the foreign service. Kerry and his three siblings were raised in the Catholic faith, and he even served an altar boy for a time.
John Kerry attended St. Paul's School, an elite boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire. He then went on to study political science at Yale University. After completing his bachelor's degree in 1966, Kerry volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy. He fought in the Vietnam War as a gunboat officer. Proving to be a brave and valiant soldier, he earned several military honors, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V (for valor) and three Purple Hearts.
Profoundly affected by his wartime experiences, Kerry worked to support other veterans after returning home in 1969. He co-founded Vietnam Veterans of America and became a spokesperson for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In 1971, Kerry spoke to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the war.
In the Senate
Kerry made his first bid for public office in 1972, but he failed in this attempted run for Congress. Kerry then pursued a law career, enrolling at Boston College Law School. In 1976, Kerry graduated from law school and used his degree to work in public service. His first legal job was working for the District Attorney of Middlesex County in Massachusetts.
After a few years in private practice, Kerry assumed his first political position in 1982. He served as the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts under Michael Dukakis. Kerry soon moved on to the national stage, winning one of Massachusetts' Senate seats in 1984. He was re-elected in 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008.
While serving in the Senate, Kerry has earned a reputation as a left-of-center legislator. He supports free trade, expansive U.S. foreign and military policy, investment in education, environmental protection and growth of the high tech New Economy. He has also continued his work on behalf of Vietnam veterans, leading a Senate committee to ensure that there are no POWs left in that country.
In 2004, Kerry won the Democratic nomination for president. He focused much of his campaign efforts on criticizing President George W. Bush. Kerry opposed Bush's foreign policy, particularly in its handling of the Iraq war. Though Kerry voted to give the president authority to wage war in Iraq, he subsequently voted against an $87 billion aid package for the country. Kerry reasons that Bush misused the trust that Congress placed in him, and continues to criticize the president for "squandering the goodwill of the world after September 11."
In July, Kerry chose North Carolina senator and former trial lawyer John Edwards as his running mate. Later that month, Kerry and Edwards were joined by speakers Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Madeline Albright and others at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. In November 2004, after a hard-fought and often bitter campaign, Kerry conceded the presidential election to incumbent George W. Bush.
Secretary of State
After his failed presidential bid, Kerry continued to be a strong presence in the U.S. Senate. He became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. In 2011, Kerry was asked to help sort out the nation's fiscal problems as a member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.
In December 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Kerry to be his next secretary of state. Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton who previously held the post. Obama considered Kerry to be the ideal candidate for the job with his decades of political experience. "John's played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for nearly 30 years," Obama said in a press conference, according to CNN.
Kerry's nomination was approved by the vast majority of the Senate with a 94 to 3 vote on January 29, 2013. His years on experience with matters of foreign policy will prove to be a great asset for his new job. As his fellow Democrat, Senator Bob Menendez, explained, "Kerry will need no introduction to the world's political and military leaders." The new secretary of state "will begin Day 1 fully conversant not only with the intricacies of U.S. foreign policy, but able to act on a multitude of international stages," Menendez added, according to a report by The Associated Press.
One of Kerry's great challenges as secretary of state has been the conflict in Syria between rebels and the government led by Bashar al-Assad. In late August 2013, he confirmed that chemical weapons had been used on civilians by al-Assad's forces. The use of these weapons "defies any code of morality," Kerry told the press, according to U.S. News & World Report. "The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity." Kerry warned that President Obama believes that the Syrian government must be held accountable for this brutal and senseless act.
Following Obama's announcement in regards to the likelihood of a strike on Syria by the U.S., Russia—among other nations—agreed to negotiate a plan to have Syria release its chemical weapons. Kerry made an announcement during a joint press conference with Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov on September 10, 2013, saying that the negotiations for a deal with Syria were underway, and while there were many expectations within the agreement, it was still a solution that he believed could be reached. However, he also expressed that the U.S. taking military action against Syria was still an option.
Later that month, Kerry met the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
This marked the first time in years that high-ranking officials from the two countries had engaged in talks. This move, along with letters exchanged between President Barack Obama and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani, may indicate a possible thawing in U.S.-Iranian relations.
Kerry's diplomatic efforts with Iran began to pay off in November 2013. The United States reached an agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program. In this deal, Iran has pledged to curb its uranium enrichment program in exchange for an easing of sanctions against Iran. On the television program State of the Union, Kerry answered critics, such as Israel, of this accord. "We believe very strongly that because the Iranian nuclear program is actually set backwards and is actually locked into place in critical places, that that is better for Israel than if you were just continuing to go down the road and they rush towards a nuclear weapon," he said.
In 1995, Kerry married Teresa Heinz, who is the widow of former Senator John Heinz and heir to the Heinz fortune. Kerry has two daughters from a previous marriage, Alexandra and Vanessa. Teresa has three sons, John, Andre and Christopher. The couple lives in Boston.