Miller Center

John F. Kerry (2013-2017) - Secretary of State

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John Forbes Kerry was born on December 11, 1943, in Aurora, Colorado. He was one of four children born to Rosemary Kerry and Richard Kerry, who served as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department. Shortly after he was born, his family moved to Massachusetts. After graduating from Yale University, Kerry enlisted in the United States Navy and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. During his service, he earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts. After returning to the United States, Kerry spoke out against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He co-founded Vietnam Veterans of America and served as a spokesperson for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He fought for better treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and increased veterans' benefits.

In 1976, he graduated from Boston College Law School and went to work as a prosecutor in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Kerry was elected lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1982 and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984. During his 28 years in the Senate, Kerry held senior positions on the Finance, Commerce, and Small Business committees. He also served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his entire tenure, chairing subcommittees on Asia and the Middle East. In 2009, Kerry became the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He also served as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Affairs.

In 2004, Kerry was the Democratic Party's nominee for President of the United States and lost to Republican nominee, George W. Bush, in the general election. President Obama nominated Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as the 68th Secretary of State. He was sworn in on February 1, 2013.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Michael Nelson

Professor Nelson is the Fulmer Professor Political Science at Rhodes College, a senior fellow of the Miller Center, and the senior contributing editor and book editor of the Cook Political Report. He is the author of multiple books on American politics and government, including:

Resilient America: Electing Nixon in 1968, Channeling Dissent, and Dividing Government (University Press of Kansas), which won the American Political Science Association’s Richard E. Neustadt Award for Best Book on the Presidency published in 2014

How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation (LSU Press), which won the Southern Political Science Association’s V.O. Key Award for Outstanding Book on Southern Politics published in 2006