Senator John Kerry, BC Law ’76, was confirmed Tuesday as the next United States Secretary of State. Kerry will take over from current Secretary Hillary Clinton as she leaves the position following the conclusion of President Barack Obama’s first term. Kerry was confirmed with a vote of 94-3, with three Republicans-Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn from Texas and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma-voting nay.
Kerry went to Yale University for his undergraduate education, graduating in 1966 with a B.A. in political science. He then spent four years in the navy, returned from service in the Vietnam War in 1969, and was formally discharged in March of 1970.
Kerry matriculated at BC Law in September of 1973, earning his J.D. in 1976. He had previously run for Congress in Massachusetts-winning the Democratic primary but losing to the Republican candidate, former Representative Paul Cronin-and so was already residing in the area. “Although my family lived in a lot of places as I was growing up, Boston’s always been home,” Kerry, then a presidential candidate, said in a 2003 interview with BC Law Magazine for its Fall/Winter issue. He went on to discuss his history at BC Law: “I was drawn to BC Law mostly because of Father [Robert] Drinan, whose first campaign for Congress I ended up chairing after I got out of the Navy and got involved in politics. In fact, the first time I ever came to BC Law was to meet with Father Drinan about his campaign.”
Rev. Robert Drinan, S.J. served as dean of BC Law from 1956 to 1970, and then as a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from 1971 to 1981. Like Kerry, Drinan actively advocated against the Vietnam War.
After graduating from BC, Kerry worked in the office of the District Attorney of Middlesex County until 1979. Kerry then ran alongside Michael Dukakis in his successful 1982 gubernatorial campaign, and served as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts until 1985, when he transitioned to his long-term position as senator from Massachusetts. He has held the Massachusetts Senate seat since 1985, making him the seventh most senior U.S. senator. In addition, he has chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since January of 2009.
As Kerry steps into his new role next week, he will bring his experience at BC Law with him. Kerry did a more recent interview with James F. Smith of BC Law Magazine for its Spring/Summer 2012 edition, in which he spoke about his leadership style. “I’ve learned to be patient and to really listen and explore what others believe to seek out common ground,” he said. “You have to listen actively. You can’t dictate. You have to keep discussions civil even when you’re very passionate. I had a great classroom for this kind of active listening not just at BC Law, but in the U.S. Senate … I learned over the years that if you want to really achieve change, you’ve got to be willing to take the time for that extra meeting and that additional work to bring people closer to you. They need questions answered. They need to know you’re not trying to jam something through. And I’ve found that both allies and opponents come to appreciate when you invest the real time needed to get somewhere.”