Senate Democrats

Reid Floor Remarks Honoring Senator John Kerry

“Senator Kerry said at his confirmation hearing that the Senate is in his blood, and that is true. As he represents America’s interests around the world, his experience in this chamber will serve him and this country well.”

“No one is better qualified than John Kerry to continue the exceptional work of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”

I rise today to honor my colleague, the Senior Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry. I congratulate Senator Kerry on his confirmation as our nation’s next Secretary of State.

He will be missed by his Senate colleagues. Senator Kerry said at his confirmation hearing that the Senate is in his blood, and that is true. As he represents America’s interests around the world, his experience in this chamber will serve him and this country well.

For 28 years John has been a dedicated representative of the people of Massachusetts in the United States Senate. But Senator Kerry has also rendered distinguished service to his country in the United States Navy, to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as Lieutenant Governor and to the Democratic Party as its 2004 nominee for president.

John Kerry is a brilliant man. He was a debater at Yale University and won awards for his skilled oratory. That talent has allowed him to speak out for freedom and justice at each stage of his career. Before he graduated college, he was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War. But upon graduation, Senator Kerry volunteered to serve in the United States Navy because, as he later said, “It was the right thing to do.”

John learned the value of service at home. His father was a Foreign Service Officer and his mother was a nurse during World War II. Senator Kerry served two tours as a Navy lieutenant in the jungles and rivers of Vietnam. He was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star for valor in combat and three Purple Hearts.

But even after his gallant service his opposition to the war remained. On April 22, 1971, Kerry became the first Vietnam veteran to testify before Congress about the war, when he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – the same committee he went on to chair.

John attended Boston College Law School and worked as a prosecutor in Middlesex County before he was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1982. Two years later he was elected to the United States Senate.

In five terms as a Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry has been an unflinching advocate for veterans. He helped found the Vietnam Veterans for America and has worked tirelessly to secure treatment for service members dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Senator Kerry has served six years on the Senate Intelligence Committee and has been on the Foreign Relations Committee for an impressive 28 years. And he has been a leading supporter of efforts to combat global climate change. Senator Kerry has convened eight major hearings and roundtables on climate change and energy security since taking the gavel of the Foreign Relations Committee in 2009.

It was in the early ‘90s that Senator Kerry’s brilliant mind and exceptional dedication came to my attention. He was serving as chairman of the POW MIA select committee. He served with patience and wisdom as chairman of that committee. It was a difficult assignment, and an important one, and he handled it – as he does every challenge – thoughtfully and with integrity.

In my time in the Senate, I have been fortunate to be invited to Senator Kerry’s home several times for lengthy but fascinating foreign policy discussions with Senate colleagues and policy experts. In recent years, Senator Kerry was also instrumental in securing passage of the New START Treaty with Russia, which is helping to reduce the danger of nuclear proliferation. He has served as an unofficial envoy for President Obama to Afghanistan, Sudan and Pakistan. And he has authored numerous pieces of legislation to prevent the global spread of HIV/AIDS. Senator Kerry has also played a central role in crafting American policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror, Middle East peace and Israel’s security.

For three decades John Kerry has been a powerful voice for his constituents in Massachusetts as well as an engaged citizen of the world. And throughout those years, John has matched his unflinching passion for democratic values with forward-thinking actions to advance those values. No one is better qualified than John Kerry to continue the exceptional work of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And while we are sad to lose his leadership in the Senate, we support him – as was clear from his nearly unanimous confirmation – and wish him well as he embarks on this next challenge.

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