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A Biography of John Kerry

Speculation He'll Be Next Secretary of State

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A Biography of John Kerry

Senator John Kerry visits with officers aboard the U.S.S. Wasp. Kerry is expected to get President Obama's nomination as Secretary of State.

Photo courtesy John Kerry Senate website
Updated December 17, 2012

While nothing was official, most of the major U.S. news agencies began reporting the weekend of December 15, 2012, that President Barack Obama had decided to nominate Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton as U.S. Secretary of State. Those reports began surfacing little more than a day after U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice pulled her name out of consideration for the position.

Kerry, chairman of the Senate's prestigious and influential Foreign Relations Committee, and Rice seemed to have an equal chance of getting the nod. (This writer always thought Kerry had a better than 50/50 shot.) That was until Republicans in the Senate -- which will have to confirm any nomination -- began questioning Rice's ability to lead the State Department based on her handling of questions after an Islamic attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.

Kerry said he understood how difficult was Rice's decision to withdraw. "As someone who has weathered my share of political attacks and understands on a personal level just how difficult politics can be, I've felt for her throughout these last difficult weeks, but I also know that she will continue to serve with great passion and distinction." Rice will continue as ambassador to the U.N.

A Brief Kerry Bio

While it looks like Kerry will indeed be Obama's pick, here is a quick bio of the Senator and former Democratic presidential contender.

Early Years

Kerry was born December 11, 1943, making him 69 at this writing. He was born at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. His family soon moved to Massachusetts. He was raised in the Catholic Church.

Kerry graduated from Yale University, then volunteered for the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He served two tours of duty. During the second, he volunteered for "swift boat" duty in the river deltas of South Vietnam.

Between 1968 and 1973, the Navy used swift boats -- also known as PCFs or Patrol Craft Fast -- to prevent North Vietnamese forces from using the deltas to either infiltrate South Vietnam or push supplies into the country.

In April 1971, Kerry testified as a Vietnam veteran before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He urged the committee to push for an end to the war, saying "there is nothing in South Vietnam which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America."

Awards and Controversy

Kerry received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam. When he was running for president against incumbent George W. Bush in 2004, a group known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth challenged Kerry's decorations. They alleged that he either did not deserve them, or had fabricated scenarios that would result in decorations to further a political career.

Kerry vehemently denied the charges, and claimed they were a tool of his Republican opponents. The charges may also have been prompted by Kerry's Senate testimony in 1971. (Bush also faced charges during the election of having hidden from active service in the Vietnam War by joining the Texas Air National Guard.)

Political Career

Upon returning home, Kerry entered the Boston College Law School, graduating in 1976. He became a prosecutor in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

Kerry won election as Massachusetts lieutenant governor in 1982. In 1984, he won his first term in the United States Senate, becoming junior senator behind Ted Kennedy. Kerry is now in his fifth six-year term in the Senate.

Throughout his senate career Kerry has championed many military causes. They include:

  • Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers.
  • Investigating Vietnam soldiers listed as missing in action as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.
  • Fighting terrorism and strengthening homeland security.
  • Helping victims of Agent Orange.
  • Protecting VA benefits for veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Kerry has also been the ranking Democrat in the Senate's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, which will give him an edge as the Obama Administration refocuses U.S. attention on that region.

Finally, Kerry has backed such domestic issues as support for small businesses, environmental protection, advances in education, and federal fiscal discipline.

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