John Kerry

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John Kerry (2013)
Signature of John Kerry

John Forbes Kerry (born December 11, 1943 in Aurora , Colorado ) is an American politician of the Democratic Party . From February 1, 2013 to January 20, 2017, Kerry was the 68th Secretary of State of the United States . Previously, he was a member from 1985 for Massachusetts to the Senate of the United States and was from 2009 chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee . In 2004, Kerry was defeated as a Democratic candidate in the US presidential election to then-incumbent George W. Bush . On December 2, 2019, he and other celebrities started the “ World War Zero ” alliance , which campaigns against climate change .


Origin and youth

John Kerry was born in 1943 to the US diplomat Richard J. Kerry (1915-2000) and his wife Rosemary Isabel Forbes (1913-2002). His mother comes from the so-called " east coast nobility " of the city of Boston ; his father's family comes from Bennisch in what was then Austrian Silesia . His grandfather Fritz Kohn (1873–1921) converted from Judaism to Catholicism in 1901 , changed the surname from “Kohn” to “Kerry” and immigrated to the USA with his family in 1904.

John Kerry has two sisters, Margery (* 1941) and Diana (* 1947), and a brother, Cameron Forbes Kerry (* 1950). His father Richard Kerry published the book Star Spangled Mirror in 1990 , which takes a critical look at US foreign policy in the 20th century.

Because of his father's profession, John Kerry spent much of his youth in Europe . Among other things, he lived between 1954 and 1956 alternately in Berlin and in the boarding school Institut Montana on the Zugerberg in Switzerland . During this time he learned German ; he still has a little command of the language. He is also fluent in French and, thanks to his father's stay in Norway , Norwegian ; he can also speak some Italian .


On May 23, 1970, Kerry married Julia Stimson Thorne (1944-2006), the daughter of the US diplomat and publisher Landon Ketchum Thorne, Jr. and his wife Alice Smith Barry. The marriage resulted in two daughters: Alexandra Forbes Kerry (born September 5, 1973) and Vanessa Bradford Kerry (born December 31, 1976). The marriage was divorced in 1988; Julia, who had made a name for herself as an author and publisher, died in April 2006 of cancer.

Teresa Heinz with John Kerry

Since May 26, 1995 he is married to the five years older Teresa Heinz , the widow of the Republican Senator Henry John Heinz III . This was a legacy of the ketchup manufacturer Henry John Heinz . She brought three sons into the marriage. Her net worth is estimated at approximately $ 500 million to $ 1 billion. However, his wife's stake in the HJ Heinz Company is below four percent.


Kerry holds a degree in political science at Yale University . Like many other Yale graduates, he is a member of the Skull & Bones student association . Kerry volunteered for service in the US Navy in 1966 , where he completed officer training. In his spare time, Kerry played ice hockey.

After serving in the Vietnam War , Kerry began studying law at Boston College Law School in 1973 and received a Juris Doctor degree in 1976 .


Vietnam War

After his first deployment in 1968 on the frigate USS Gridley (DLG-21) in the South China Sea , he volunteered for use in the Vietnam War and in February 1969 became the commander of a "swift boat" , a fast patrol boat . He took part in numerous military operations with the "Swift Boat # 94" under his control ; Among other things, he was awarded the Silver Star , the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts (the latter for three wounds). He left Vietnam in April 1969 and his active service ended in 1970.

Splinters from the explosion of a bazooka, which was fired at the boat by a Viet Cong in February 1969, are still in his thigh . Kerry was awarded the Silver Star when he left the boat after being hit by rockets to put the shooter on the bank. In 2017, on his last trip as Secretary of State, Kerry revisited the spot where he killed the shooter. There Kerry was talking to a former Viet Cong, Vo Ban Tam, who had taken part in the battle and identified the killed missile shooter as the then 24-year-old Viet Cong Ba Thanh.

Through his service in Vietnam, Kerry became an enemy of the war. He organized several demonstrations against the war, in which mainly war veterans took part. To finance these demonstrations, Kerry accepted donations from wealthy opponents of the war. In February 2004, when his chances of becoming a Democratic presidential candidate increased, his opponents tried to use these activities against him.

Kerry first rose to fame in 1971 when, on his return from Vietnam, he gave a passionate anti-war speech in which he accused the US Army of serious and systematic war crimes , committed by all military levels, before a committee of the US Senate or even ordered. However, he later had to admit that he had never witnessed such war crimes himself; about 50 alleged witnesses who had also accompanied him at the committee hearing were also unable to provide any more precise information about the times, places or perpetrators of these events during further questioning.

Some of the members of his boat crew at the time supported John Kerry's candidacy for president and accompanied him to public appearances; About 200 of his former comrades, however, joined together to form the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth . They accused Kerry of providing false information about his Vietnam mission and of having received some of his awards wrongly. They also see Kerry's opposition to the war as a "betrayal of the comrade".

Early professional and political career

In the 1972 congressional elections, Kerry ran for political office for the first time. He ran for a seat in the US House of Representatives for a constituency in Massachusetts, but was defeated by his Republican opponent Paul W. Cronin .

After completing his law degree in 1976, he worked as a state attorney in Massachusetts until 1979. Kerry himself sees this professional experience as the reason for his pragmatic approach to the so-called war on terror . In 1979 he opened a law firm with a colleague.

In 1982, Kerry returned to politics. He ran for the office of lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and narrowly prevailed in the Democratic primary. In the 1982 gubernatorial election, the Dukakis / Kerry team clearly won, and Kerry became Deputy Governor Michael Dukakis .

In 1992, John Kerry played himself in episode 23 of the 10th season of " Cheers ".

Senator for Massachusetts

In November 1984, Kerry won a Senate seat for the US state of Massachusetts and was sworn in in January 1985. He was re-elected in 1990, 1996 (against then Republican Governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld ), 2002, and 2008. Kerry is often referred to as little JFK by US commentators . Not only are their initials the same, like Kerry, John F. Kennedy was a Senator for Massachusetts before he took office. In the Senate, Kerry stood out primarily for his work in investigative commissions - especially on the Iran-Contra affair . Kerry played a key role in initiating reconciliation between the United States and the former war opponent Vietnam on a political level. He voted against the second (from 1991) in the Senate , but for the third Gulf War . He was also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee for eight years . Since January 6, 2009 he was the successor to the US Vice President , Joe Biden, the chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Policy ; previously he was in charge of the committee for small and medium-sized enterprises . He also sat in the Committee on Trade, Science and Transport and the Finance Committee .

Massachusetts is considered to be very liberal in US politics , i.e. a politically left-wing state in local parlance. Kerry is in favor of restricting gun ownership . He campaigns for the rights of homosexuals, but rejects marriage between them. Kerry voted against the Marriage Protection Act in the Senate . He was one of the very few senators who advocated an American signature under the Kyoto Protocol . Kerry is an advocate of the right to abortion . He rejects the death penalty , except for terrorist acts, because he had to kill himself, so Kerry.

After Kerry's entry into the Obama cabinet , a by-election for his Senate seat became necessary, up to which Mo Cowan held the seat as interim successor appointed by the state governor, Deval Patrick . The by-election was eventually won by Ed Markey , a longtime Democratic MP in the House of Representatives.

2004 presidential candidacy

Kerry in St. Louis, 2004
Support for John F. Kerry, 2004 in Arizona

In the primaries for the US presidential elections 2004 , Kerry was in contrast to Howard Dean , who withdrew his candidacy on February 18, 2004 due to a lack of approval in the first primaries, as a moderate candidate. Both his international experience and his personal reputation as an active participant in the war spoke for him. His opponents in the primary campaign accused him of collecting large donations from large companies.

After Kerry's success in the so-called Super Tuesday primaries on March 2, 2004, his presidential candidacy was considered certain. The Democratic candidate was officially nominated at a national party conference in Boston in late July 2004. On July 6, 2004, John Kerry presented John Edwards , then US Senator for North Carolina , as his candidate for the office of vice president at an election campaign event in Pittsburgh . Edwards had previously been his fiercest rival in the internal party candidates.

A poll for the presidential election of March 7, 2004 in Florida saw Kerry with 49% clearly ahead of Bush, who received only 43% approval.

On March 27, 2004, it became known that a historian had stolen FBI surveillance logs of Kerry's activities in the 1970s. The FBI had been closely monitoring the former highly decorated Vietnam fighter because of his later involvement against the war in Southeast Asia. Kerry himself had received his FBI files years ago, but the documents that the historian had won in a lengthy process were, at around 20,000 pages, far more extensive than those known to Kerry.

He was able to maintain his lead over Bush until the Republican Congress , but then fell behind. After his first televised duel with President Bush on September 30, 2004, all polling institutes saw Kerry clearly on the upswing. He was also able to convince in the two other speech duels on October 8 and October 13, 2004, and pollsters saw Kerry as the winner two more times.

election day

After the elections on November 2nd, the outcome of the election in the state of Ohio was far from being decided. On November 3rd, however, it became apparent that Bush would also win this state and thus the election. As a result, Kerry lost with 48% of the vote, while Bush won 51% of the vote. Thereupon Kerry congratulated his competitor on the victory and urged the USA to leave the bitterness of the elections behind.

Donations for the election campaign

The Internet exerted a significant influence on the American election campaign for the first time: The presidential candidate John Kerry managed to mobilize hundreds of thousands online and to encourage small donations as well as to win large donors from industry and business. It raised over $ 100 million in three months. In total, John Kerry's campaign donation totaled nearly $ 160 million.

Political program

John Kerry hugs Barack Obama after his return from Afghanistan in 2009

It was Kerry's aim to involve the USA more intensively in multilateral talks and to take greater account of the UN community of states; Among other things, he named broad support from other countries, the global test, as the basis for military operations . He also called for greater participation by other states in the reconstruction and protection of Iraq . After Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol on October 22, 2004, Kerry promised ratification by the United States if he won the election.

Furthermore, after his election as president, Kerry wanted to reverse the tax cuts imposed by George W. Bush and prevent oil drilling in the nature reserve of Alaska .

Waiver of renewed candidacy

Kerry initially considered running for a new presidential nomination in 2008 , but announced on January 24, 2007 that he was not going to run. Instead, on January 10, 2008, he declared his support for the candidate Barack Obama .

United States Secretary of State

John Kerry and EU Foreign Affairs Representative Federica Mogherini , 2014

In December 2012, US President Barack Obama named Kerry as his candidate to succeed Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State . Susan E. Rice , who was previously the favorite for the office and was then UN ambassador to the United States , had decided against a possible nomination after criticizing her comments on the Benghazi attack . On January 29, 2013, the Senate confirmed Kerry's nomination by 94 votes to three, after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had previously voted unanimously for him. On February 1, 2013, he was sworn in as the 68th United States Secretary of State. Because of his own war experiences, Kerry is considered an opponent of military violence.

During Kerry's tenure, the United States initially did not provide military support to the rebels in Syria , but only financially. After the use of poison gas in the Ghouta region , Kerry was convinced of the guilt of President Bashar al-Assad and called for military intervention. He also compared Assad with Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein . During his official visit to Turkey , he reacted indignantly when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan equated Zionism with fascism . During a visit to Israel, Kerry called for construction on the settlements in Beit El to be halted . Kerry praised the upheaval in Egypt in 2013 and described it as "restoring democracy". During the Crimean crisis in 2014, Kerry condemned Putin's intervention in Crimea and threatened to be expelled from the G8 in March .


Fonts (selection)

  • John Kerry: The new war . Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 1997, ISBN 0-684-81815-9 (English).
  • John Kerry: A call to service . Viking, New York, NY 2003, ISBN 0-670-03260-3 (English).
  • John Kerry, Teresa Heinz Kerry: This moment on earth . PublicAffairs; Perseus Running distributor, New York, NY, London 2007, ISBN 978-1-58648-431-6 (English).
  • John Kerry: Every day is extra . Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 2018, ISBN 978-1-5011-7895-5 (English).


  • Paul Alexander: John Kerry , Berlin Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-8270-0564-7
  • Jochen Arntz and Holger Schmale: John Kerry. Candidate against Bush - America before the decision , Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2004, ISBN 3-462-03445-6 .
  • Wolfgang Koydl: John Kerry , Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-596-16605-5
  • Friederich Mielke: John F. Kerry. An American Biography , Herbig, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7766-2390-X
  • Christiane Oppermann: John F. Kerry , Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-593-37581-8
  • Martin Schwarz: John Kerry. America's Chance , Droemer / Knaur, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-426-77791-6

Web links

Commons : John Kerry  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: John Kerry  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. US Alliance: "World War Zero" against climate change. Retrieved December 2, 2019 .
  2. The Paternal Ancestors of Senator John Kerry, October 7, 2004, accessed December 17, 2012.
  3. Florian Kain: How post-war Berlin shaped John Kerry's childhood - Berliner Morgenpost 2013
  4. (video on
  5. John Kerry is praised for his Norwegian. In: Frankfurter Rundschau of March 14, 2013
  6. Newspaper article "Die Geister von Vietnam" in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 12./13. January 2013, features section, page 13
  7. a b John Kerry finds Vietnam War site where he killed a man. BBC News , January 15, 2017, accessed January 15, 2017 .
  8. Matt Bai: Kerry's Undeclared War. In: New York Times. October 10, 2004, accessed on March 24, 2016 (American English): “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance ... As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. "
  9. 2004 Election - Presidential Candidate John Kerry, accessed November 2, 2008
  10. Kerry won't run for president in '08, January 27, 2007, accessed November 2, 2008
  11. Kerry endorses Obama over '04 running mate, January 10, 2008, accessed November 2, 2008
  12. Mark Landler: Kerry Named for the Role of a Lifetime. In: The New York Times , December 21, 2012.
  13. New US Secretary of State: Senate clears the way for Kerry. In: Spiegel Online , January 29, 2013.
  14. USA: John Kerry replaces Hillary Clinton. In: Deutsche Welle , February 1, 2013.
  15. Christian Wernicke : Kerry and Hagel - return of the veterans. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , December 20, 2012.
  16. Syria's opposition gets money, but no weapons. In: Focus , February 28, 2013.
  17. USA confirms use of chemical weapons in Syria. In: Welt Online , August 26, 2013.
  18. Ansgar Graw : Influential Republicans want to attack Assad. In: Welt Online , September 3, 2013.
  19. Kerry castigates Erdogan's Zionist statements. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , March 1, 2013.
  20. Kerry urges construction freeze. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , May 24, 2013.
  21. US Republicans show solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood. In: Spiegel Online , August 6, 2013.
  22. Kerry threatens Russia to be expelled from the G8. In: , March 2, 2014.
  23. US Secretary of State Kerry receives Federal Cross of Merit on, December 6, 2016
  24. John Kerry reçoit la Legion of Honor des mains de Jean-Marc Ayrault. Ouest-France , December 10, 2016, accessed October 22, 2017 (French).
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 18, 2005 .