Just before 4:00 p.m. today, Friday, February 1st, Senator John Kerry was sworn in as America’s 68th Secretary of State. The oath was administered by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in the hearing room of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which the Senator had chaired.
Secretary Kerry was born in Aurora, Colorado and educated at Yale University. He served in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War, was decorated several times, and became a prominent anti-war activist upon his return from Vietnam. After graduating from Boston College Law School, he worked as a prosecutor in the Boston area, and then in his own private law practice. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1982 and as one of that State’s U.S. Senators in 1984, a position he has held for the past 28 years. In 2004 he was the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
Secretary Kerry joins a long line of chief American diplomats marked from the iconic Thomas Jefferson, who served as the United States’ first Secretary of State years before becoming President. (John Jay, America’s first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, served as Acting Secretary for several months before Jefferson was sworn.) The esteemed roster of Secretaries of State also includes several other future Presidents including James Madison and James Monroe … legendary orators such as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and William Jennings Bryant … five Nobel Peace Prize laureates including Cordell Hull …
… grand strategists such as George Marshall, Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles, Henry Kissinger, and James Baker … the first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright … the first African American Secretary of State, Colin Powell … and of course former First Lady and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Our new Secretary is no stranger to diplomacy. His father was a Foreign Service Officer and held posts abroad. He himself served for years as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. (I was honored by his presence at my own confirmation hearing 4 years ago, in the room in which he was sworn into office today.)
As Secretary Clinton stated as she left the Department, “John Kerry brings judgment, experience, vision, and a deep understanding of what diplomacy and development require. He’ll be an excellent Secretary of State.”
Secretary Kerry is well-known for his commitment to environmental protection, education, free trade, and expansive international engagement. He worked on acid rain issues as Lieutenant Governor early in his career, and he is committed to addressing the grave risks posed by climate change. He has a firmly held, nuanced vision of America’s place in the world developed over a lifetime of service at home and abroad.
As he left the Capitol after being sworn, the Secretary told the assembled media that he was honored to have been nominated and confirmed, and that he is anxious to get to work. Welcome to Foggy Bottom, Secretary Kerry.