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Biography John Kerry

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John Kerry John Kerry
John Kerry
American politician who is the 68th and current United States Secretary of State.


John Kerry Biography

ENG: John Forbes Kerry (born December 11, 1943) is an American politician who is the 68th and current United States Secretary of State. He served as a United States Senator from Massachusetts from 1985 to 2013, and was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 2004, Kerry was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the presidential election, but lost to incumbent President George W. Bush.

The son of an Army Air Corps veteran, Kerry was born in Aurora, Colorado. He attended boarding school in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and went on to graduate from Yale University class of 1966, where he majored in political science and became a member of the influential Skull and Bones secret society. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1966, and during 1968–1969 served an abbreviated four-month tour of duty in South Vietnam as officer-in-charge (OIC) of a Swift Boat. For that service, he was awarded combat medals that include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Securing an early return to the United States, Kerry joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War in which he served as a nationally recognized spokesman and as an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. He appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs where he deemed United States war policy in Vietnam to be the cause of "war crimes."

After receiving his J.D. from Boston College Law School, Kerry worked as an Assistant District Attorney and co-founded a private firm. He served as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts under Michael Dukakis from 1983 to 1985, where he worked on an early forerunner to the national Clean Air Act. He won a tight Democratic primary in 1984 for the U.S. Senate and was sworn in the following January. On the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he led a series of hearings from 1987 to 1989 which were a precursor to the Iran–Contra affair. He was an early backer of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but became a strong opponent of the subsequent war.

Kerry based his 2004 presidential campaign on opposition to the Iraq War. He and his running mate Senator John Edwards lost the race, finishing 35 electoral votes behind the Republican ticket headed by President George W. Bush (just 19 short of the 270 required for election). Subsequently he established the Keeping America's Promise PAC. Kerry became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009, and in 2011 he was appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Having been nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 94–3 on January 29, 2013, Kerry assumed the office on February 1, 2013.


Personal life and background

Kerry is the child of Richard Kerry (1915–2000), a Foreign Service Officer and an attorney for the Bureau of United Nations Affairs, and Rosemary Isabel (Forbes) Kerry (1913–2002), a World War II nurse and member of the wealthy Forbes family. Rosemary was born in Paris, France, to American parents. Kerry has three siblings: two sisters, Diana (born in 1947) and Margerie (aka Peggy; born in 1941), and a brother, Cameron Kerry (born in 1950), Cameron Kerry is the General Counsel of the US Department of Commerce. One of Kerry's maternal great-great-grandfathers was Robert Charles Winthrop, the 22nd Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony John Winthrop is a direct Kerry forebear.

Kerry was raised as a Roman Catholic by his Catholic father and Episcopalian mother. As a child, Kerry served as an altar boy. Although the extended family enjoyed a great fortune, Kerry's parents themselves were upper-middle class; a wealthy great aunt paid for Kerry to attend elite schools in Europe and New England. Kerry spent his summers at the Forbes family estate in Brittany, and there, he enjoyed a more opulent lifestyle than he had previously known in Massachusetts.

It was discovered in 2003 by Felix Gundacker, a genealogist working with The Boston Globe, that Kerry's paternal grandparents, who had been born Jewish, as "Fritz Kohn" and "Ida Löwe", in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, changed their names to "Frederick and Ida Kerry" in 1900 and converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism in 1901 or 1902. Fritz' elder brother Otto had earlier, in 1887 or 1896, also embraced Catholicism. The "Kerry" name, widely misinterpreted as indicative of Irish heritage, was reputedly selected arbitrarily: "According to family legend, Fritz and another family member opened an atlas at random and dropped a pencil on a map. It fell on County Kerry in Ireland, and thus a name was chosen." Leaving their hometown Mödling, a suburb of Vienna where they had lived since 1896, Fred and Ida, together with their son Eric, emigrated to the United States in 1905, living at first in Chicago and eventually moving to Brookline, Massachusetts, by 1915.

The village where Fritz Kohn was born in 1873 was at that time known as Bennisch and was a part of Silesia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but is today known as Horní Benešov in the Czech Republic. After learning of his ancestral connection with their village, the mayor and citizens sent congratulatory correspondence to John Kerry with regard to his political pursuits.

For a time, Fred Kerry was a prosperous and successful shoe merchant, and Ida and two of the children — Richard (who would become the father of John Kerry) and Mildred — were able to afford to travel to Europe in the autumn of 1921, returning on October 21. A few weeks later, on November 15, Fred Kerry filed a will leaving everything to Ida and then, on November 23, walked into a washroom of the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston and committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a handgun. The suicide was front-page news in all of the Boston newspapers, reporting at the time that the motive was severe asthma and related health problems, but modern reports cite family sources saying that the motive was financial trouble: "He had made three fortunes and when he had lost the third fortune, he couldn't face it anymore", according to granddaughter Nancy Stockslager.

John Kerry has said that although he knew his paternal grandfather had come from Austria, he did not know until informed by The Boston Globe on the basis of their genealogical research that Fred Kerry had changed his name from "Fritz Kohn" and had been born Jewish, nor that his great-uncle and great-aunt, Ida Kerry's brother Otto and sister Jenni, died in Nazi concentration camps.

On his mother's side, the Forbes name can be traced back to Thomas Dudley of the Dudley-Winthrop family who landed in Salem, Massachusetts, on June 14, 1630, with his daughter, poet Anne Dudley Bradstreet, and others aboard the Arbella.

Kerry is 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall, enjoys surfing and windsurfing, as well as ice hockey, hunting and playing bass guitar. According to an interview he gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 2004, Kerry's favorite album is Abbey Road and he is a fan of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, as well as of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Buffett. He never liked heavy metal. During his 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry used Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" as one of his campaign songs. Later he would adopt U2's "Beautiful Day" as his official campaign song.

Kerry is described by Sports Illustrated, among others, as an "avid cyclist", primarily riding on a road bike. Prior to his Presidential bid, Kerry was known to have participated in several long-distance rides (centuries). Even during his many campaigns, he was reported to have visited bicycle stores in both his home state and elsewhere. His staff requested recumbent stationary bikes for his hotel rooms.

Kerry appeared in a cameo as himself on the April 30, 1992, episode of the hit television sitcom Cheers, in the episode, "Bar Wars VI: This Time It's For Real."

In 2003, Kerry was diagnosed with and successfully treated for prostate cancer.

During the 2012 Obama reelection campaign, Kerry participated in one on one debate prep with the president, impersonating the Republican candidate Mitt Romney.



Kerry was married to Julia Thorne in 1970, and they had two daughters together: Alexandra and Vanessa. Alexandra was born on September 5, 1973, days before Kerry began law school. A graduate of Milton Academy and Brown University, she received her M.F.A. in June 2004 from the AFI Conservatory. She is a documentary filmmaker. Vanessa was born on December 31, 1976. She is a graduate of Phillips Academy and Yale University, and attended Harvard Medical School and a master's program in health policy at the London School of Economics. Both daughters were active in their father's 2004 Presidential campaign.

In 1982 Thorne, who was suffering from severe depression, asked Kerry for a separation. They were divorced on July 25, 1988, and the marriage was formally annulled in 1997. "After 14 years as a political wife, I associated politics only with anger, fear and loneliness" she wrote in A Change of Heart, her book about depression. Thorne later married Richard Charlesworth, an architect, and moved to Bozeman, Montana, where she became active in local environmental groups such as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Thorne supported Kerry's 2004 presidential run. She died of cancer on April 27, 2006.

Kerry and his second wife, Teresa Simões-Ferreira Heinz, the widow of Pennsylvania Senator H. John Heinz III, a Republican, and former United Nations interpreter, were introduced to each other by John Heinz at an Earth Day rally in 1990. They did not meet again until after John Heinz's death, at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. They married on May 26, 1995, in Nantucket. John Kerry's stepsons – Teresa's three sons from her previous marriage – are H. John Heinz IV, André Heinz and Christopher Heinz, who married Alexandra DeRuyter Lewis on February 10, 2007.

The Forbes 400 survey estimated in 2004 that Teresa Heinz Kerry had a net worth of $750 million. However, estimates have frequently varied, ranging from around $165 million to as high as $3.2 billion, according to a study in the Los Angeles Times. Regardless of which figure is correct, Kerry is the wealthiest U.S. Senator. Kerry is wealthy in his own name, and is the beneficiary of at least four trusts inherited from Forbes family members, including his mother, who died in 2002. Forbes magazine (a major business magazine named for an unrelated Forbes family) estimated that if elected, Kerry would have been the third-richest U.S. President in history when adjusted for inflation. This assessment was based on the couple's combined assets, but Kerry and Heinz signed a prenuptial agreement that keeps their assets separate. Kerry's financial disclosure form for 2011 put his personal assets in the range of $230,000,000 to $320,000,000.


Religious beliefs

A Roman Catholic, Kerry was said to carry a rosary, a prayer book, and a St. Christopher medal (the patron saint of travelers) when he campaigned. However, while Kerry is personally against abortion, he supports a woman's legal right to have one, which puts him at odds with the Catholic Church. Discussing his faith, Kerry said, "I thought of being a priest. I was very religious while at school in Switzerland. I was an altar boy and prayed all the time. I was very centered around the Mass and the church." He also said that the Letters of Paul moved him the most, stating that they taught him to "not feel sorry for myself."

In an interview with Christianity Today, Kerry said of his faith: "I'm a Catholic and I practice, but at the same time I have an open-mindedness to many other expressions of spirituality that come through different religions. ... I've spent some time reading and thinking about [religion] and trying to study it, and I've arrived at not so much a sense of the differences, but a sense of the similarities in so many ways." He said that he believed that the Torah, the Qur'an, and the Bible all share a fundamental story which connects with readers.


Anti-war activism (1970–1971)

After returning to the United States, Kerry joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Then numbering about 20,000, VVAW was considered by some (including the administration of President Richard Nixon) to be an effective, if controversial, component of the antiwar movement. According to Nixon Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, "I didn’t approve of what he did, but I understood the protesters quite well", and he declined two requests from the Navy to court martial Reserve Lieutenant Kerry over his antiwar activity.

On April 22, 1971, Kerry became the first Vietnam veteran to testify before Congress about the war, when he appeared before a Senate committee hearing on proposals relating to ending the war. He was still a member of the United States Navy Reserve, holding the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. Wearing green fatigues and service ribbons, he spoke for nearly two hours with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in what has been named the Fulbright Hearings, after the Chairman of the proceedings, Senator J. W. Fulbright. Kerry began with a prepared speech, in which he presented the conclusions of the Winter Soldier Investigation, and then went on to address larger policy issues.

The day after this testimony, Kerry participated in a demonstration with thousands of other veterans in which he and other veterans threw their medals and ribbons over a fence erected at the front steps of the United States Capitol building to dramatize their opposition to the war. Jack Smith, a Marine, read a statement explaining why the veterans were returning their military awards to the government. For more than two hours, almost 1000 angry veterans tossed their medals, ribbons, hats, jackets, and military papers over the fence. Each veteran gave his or her name, hometown, branch of service and a statement. Kerry threw some of his decorations as well as some given to him by other veterans to throw. As Kerry threw his decorations over the fence, his statement was: "I'm not doing this for any violent reasons, but for peace and justice, and to try and make this country wake up once and for all. " The documentary film Sir! No Sir! includes archival footage of Kerry at the demonstration: he is one of several young men seen throwing things over the fence.


Early political career (1972–1985) - 1972 campaign

In February 1972, after Kerry previously passed on an opportunity to run in another district, his wife, Julia bought a house in Worcester. Residence there would have required Kerry to run for Congress against an incumbent Democrat, Harold D. Donohue. Instead however, the couple rented an apartment in Lowell. The incumbent in that district, F. Bradford Morse, was a Republican who was thought to be retiring.

Counting Kerry, the Democratic primary race in 1972 had 10 candidates. One of these was State Representative Anthony R. DiFruscia of Lawrence. Both Kerry's and DiFuscia's campaign HQs were in the same building. On the eve of the September primary, Kerry's younger brother Cameron and campaign field director Thomas J. Vallely, both then 22 years old, were found by police in the basement of this building, where the telephone lines were located. They were arrested and charged with "breaking and entering with the intent to commit grand larceny", but the case was dismissed about a year later. At the time of the incident, DiFruscia alleged that they were trying to disrupt his get-out-the vote efforts. Vallely and Cameron Kerry maintained that they were only checking their own telephone lines because they had received an anonymous call warning that the Kerry lines would be cut.

Although Kerry's campaign was hurt by the election-day report of the arrest, he still won the primary, narrowly beating state Representative Paul J. Sheehy. DiFruscia placed third. Kerry lost in Lawrence and Lowell, his chief opponents' bases, but placed first in 18 of the district's 22 towns.

In the general election, Kerry was initially favored to defeat the Republican candidate, former state Representative Paul W. Cronin, and an independent, Roger P. Durkin. A major obstacle, however, was the district's leading newspaper, the conservative leaning Sun. The paper editorialized against him. It also ran critical news stories about his out-of-state contributions and his "carpetbagging", because he had moved into the district only in April. Subsequently released "Watergate" Oval Office tape recordings of the Nixon White House showed that defeating Kerry's candidacy had attracted the personal attention of President Nixon.

The final blow came when, four days before the election, Durkin withdrew in favor of Cronin. Cronin won the election, becoming the only Republican to be elected to Congress that November in a district carried by Democratic Presidential nominee George McGovern.


District Attorney tenure

After Kerry's 1972 defeat, he and his wife bought a house in Lowell. He spent some time working as a fundraiser for the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), an international humanitarian organization. In September 1973, he entered Boston College Law School. In July 1974, while attending law school, Kerry was named executive director of Mass Action, a Massachusetts advocacy association.

He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Boston College in 1976. While in law school he had been a student prosecutor in the office of the District Attorney of Middlesex County, John J. Droney. After passing the bar exam and being admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1976, he went to work in that office as a full-time prosecutor.

In January 1977, Droney promoted him to First Assistant District Attorney. In that position, Kerry had dual roles. First, he tried cases, winning convictions in a high-profile rape case and a murder. Second, he played a role in administering the office of the district attorney by initiating the creation of special white-collar and organized crime units, creating programs to address the problems of rape and other crime victims and of witnesses, and managing trial calendars to reflect case priorities. It was in this role in 1978 that Kerry announced an investigation into possible criminal charges against then Senator Edward Brooke, regarding "misstatements" in his first divorce trial.


Lieutenant Governor tenure

In 1979, Kerry resigned from the District Attorney's office to set up a private law firm with another former prosecutor. And, although his private law practice was a success, Kerry was still interested in public office. He re-entered electoral politics by running for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts and won a narrow victory in the 1982 Democratic primary. The ticket, with Michael Dukakis as the gubernatorial candidate, won the general election without difficulty.

The position of Lieutenant Governor carried few inherent responsibilities. Dukakis, however, delegated additional matters to Kerry. In particular, Kerry's interest in environmental protection led him to become heavily involved in the issue of acid rain. His work contributed to a National Governors Association resolution in 1984 that was a precursor to the 1990 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act.

During his campaign, Kerry had argued that nuclear evacuation planning was "a sham intended to deceive Americans into believing they could survive a nuclear war."


Election for U.S. Senate

The junior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, Paul Tsongas, announced in 1984 that he would be stepping down for health reasons. Kerry decided to run for the seat. As in his 1982 race for Lieutenant Governor, he did not receive the endorsement of the party regulars at the state Democratic convention. Congressman James Shannon (a favorite of House Speaker Tip O'Neill) was the early favorite to win the nomination, and he "won broad establishment support and led in early polling." Again as in 1982, however, Kerry prevailed in a close primary. In his campaign, he promised to mix liberalism with tight budget controls. As the Democratic candidate, he was elected to the Senate despite a nationwide landslide for the re-election of Republican president Ronald Reagan, for whom Massachusetts voted by a narrow margin. In his acceptance speech, Kerry asserted that his win meant that the people of Massachusetts "emphatically reject the politics of selfishness and the notion that women must be treated as second-class citizens." Kerry was sworn in as a U.S. Senator in January 1985.


2004 presidential campaign

In the 2004 Democratic Presidential primaries, John Kerry defeated several Democratic rivals, including Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina.), former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and retired Army General Wesley Clark. His victory in the Iowa caucuses is widely believed to be the tipping point where Kerry revived his sagging campaign in New Hampshire and the February 3, 2004, primary states like Arizona, South Carolina and New Mexico. Kerry then went on to win landslide victories in Nevada and Wisconsin. Kerry thus won the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States against incumbent George W. Bush. On July 6, 2004, he announced his selection of John Edwards as his running mate. Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who was Kerry's 2004 campaign adviser, wrote an article in Time magazine claiming that after the election, Kerry had said that he wished he'd never picked Edwards, and that the two have since stopped speaking to each other. In a subsequent appearance on ABC's This Week, Kerry refused to respond to Shrum's allegation, calling it a "ridiculous waste of time."

On November 3, 2004, Kerry conceded the race. Kerry won 59.03 million votes, or 48.3 percent of the popular vote; Bush won 62.04 million votes, or 50.7 percent of the popular vote. Kerry carried states with a total of 252 electoral votes. One Kerry elector voted for Kerry's running mate, Edwards, so in the final tally Kerry had 251 electoral votes to Bush's 286. Although, as in the previous election, there were disputes about the voting, no state was as close as Florida had been in 2000 (see 2004 United States presidential election controversy and irregularities).


Post-presidential election activities - 2008 presidential election

Immediately after the 2004 election, some Democrats mentioned Kerry as a possible contender for the 2008 Democratic nomination. His brother had said such a campaign was "conceivable", and Kerry himself reportedly said at a farewell party for his 2004 campaign staff, "There's always another four years."

Kerry established a separate political action committee, Keeping America's Promise, that raised money and channeled contributions to Democratic candidates in state and federal races. Through Keeping America's Promise in 2005, Kerry raised over $5.5 million for other Democrats up and down the ballot. Through his campaign account and his political action committee, the Kerry campaign operation generated more than $10 million for various party committees and 179 candidates for the US House, Senate, state and local offices in 42 states focusing on the midterm elections during the 2006 election cycle. "Cumulatively, John Kerry has done as much if not more than any other individual senator", Hassan Nemazee, the national finance chairman of the DSCC said.

On January 10, 2008, Kerry endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama for President. He was mentioned as a possible Vice Presidential candidate for Senator Obama, although fellow Senator Joe Biden was eventually chosen. After Biden's acceptance of the vice presidential nomination, speculation arose that John Kerry would be a candidate for Secretary of State in the Obama administration. However, Senator Hillary Clinton was offered the position.


Secretary of State (2013–present)

On December 15, 2012, several news outlets reported that President Barack Obama would nominate Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, after Susan Rice, widely seen as Obama's preferred choice, withdrew her name from consideration citing a politicized confirmation process following criticism of her response to the 2012 Benghazi attack. On December 21 Obama proposed the nomination. which received positive commentary. His confirmation hearing took place on January 24, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the same panel where he first testified in 1971. The committee unanimously voted to approve him on January 29, 2013, and the same day the full Senate confirmed him on a vote of 94–3, with Kerry voting "present" on his nomination and John Hoeven (R-ND) and Patty Murray (D-WA) not voting. Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) voted no. In a letter to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Kerry announced his resignation from the Senate effective February 1. Kerry was sworn in as Secretary of State on February 1, 2013. Noteworthy because before 1997 all previous Secretaries of State had been white men, Kerry is the first white man to hold the post in 16 years.





February 12,2013

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