Monday, June 17, 2019
John Kerry Pinpoints Most Serious Issue Facing Us-And It Isn’t Trump
John Kerry recounted how both Presidents Reagan and Kennedy quoted one of Kerry's forefathers.
Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Former Secretary of State John Kerry minced no words as he took the stage at Ketchum’s Community Library a few days before Christmas.

“It’s a tough time. Our country is in turmoil,” he said, kicking off a hundred-minute talk that would end with a book signing of his book, “Every Day is Extra.”

But, he added, “I’m an optimist, and my book traces why we have reason to be optimistic.”

John Kerry talked about sitting in a tiny windowless room--the first American Secretary of State to negotiate with a prime minister of Iran in 40 years.

People began lining up two hours ahead of the talk, and many of Kerry’s friends and family attended, including singer Carole King, TV Producer Saul Turteltaub, Emmy Award-winning British documentary producer Anthony Geffen and former White House photographer Diana Walker.

There was such high interest that Kerry scheduled a second talk at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29. Doors open at 3:15 p.m. and a book signing will follow with books available from Chapter One Bookstore.

Library Director Jenny Emery Davidson noted that Kerry was a five-time U.S. Senator and the Democratic nominee for President in 2004. “But here in Idaho’s mountains he’s known as a remarkable athlete and a nice person, a person who will make time to come talk at the local library,” she added, noting that Kerry’s wife  Teresa Heinz had been a key figure in the “once-in-a-generation comprehensive renovation” of the library that’s going on.

Kerry noted that, while he has been making the rounds with talk show hosts, including Chris Hayes and Brian Williams, he had not spoken before an audience like those seated wall-to-wall in the library’s newly remodeled lecture hall. He added that he knew he was in front of a “thoughtful audience,” which included “people with a lot of experience.”

John Kerry noted that it was mostly young people at the core of movements like Civil Rights that made real change.

“I’m honored to be here at the library. Look, I spent 28 years in the United States Senate—I’m happy to be invited anywhere!” he quipped.

Kerry, who came within 60,000 Ohio votes of winning the presidency, called his book “not a policy tome but a story of a journey of a young man” through a remarkable time.

The 6-foot-4 statesman, who turned 75 on Dec. 11, told how he has lived a “relatively Forest Gump-like life.” As a 16-year-old, he was late to a sailboat outing with President John F. Kennedy. When the President found out he was a Yale man, Kerry added, the President who had just been awarded an honorary Yale degree replied, “I now have the best of everything--a Yale degree and a Harvard education.”

He also recounted how he broke his nose trying to hurdle actor Tom Hanks during a traditional holiday ice skating outing in Sun Valley where both own homes.“Tom Hanks has never skated with us since,” he added.

John Kerry said President Richard Nixon tried to destroy him at age 27 but that Chuck Colson, who attempted to carry out the President's bidding, later apologized to him.

Kerry, who was at a Harvard-Yale soccer game when he learned the President Kennedy had been shot, recounted how he helped raise money to fill buses up to break the back of Jim Crow laws during Civil Rights movement.

He said he was glad to serve his country in Vietnam on a Navy swift boat, having been spurred on by Kennedy’s admonition that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

“But I’m not glad that American went to war,” he said, adding that he knew it was wrong as soon as he  witnessed “the stares of the occupied against the occupier” within days of arriving.

Upon his return, Kerry said, he helped organize Earth Day, where 20 million Americans took to the streets to demonstrate for a healthy environment, defeating seven of the “Dirty Dozen” Congressmen with abysmal environmental records. And he became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, leading veteran protestors in Washington.

 “That’s why my book is a roadmap to what we need to do now,” he said, encouraging the audience to stop whining about President Trump’s daily tweets and “go out and make democracy work.”

“Democracy is hard work,” he said. But he added that he is encouraged that more young people are going to Washington than at any time since Watergate. And they’re angry at the inability of Congress to function.

Kerry said the American people need to get big money out of American politics and stop gerrymandering—“that steals democracy from the people.”

“We also have to stop being a country where one major party works as hard as it does to keep people from voting,” he added.

Kerry said there are more serious issues facing America right now than he’s seen in his lifetime.

“The most serious issue facing us today is climate change. We’re not getting the job done,” he said. “We have a president that denies climate happenings and is standing in the way of our progress.”

Oceans are threatened by pollution, overfishing and climate change, Kerry said. And more rain dumped on Houston in five days during Hurricane Harvey than flows over Niagara Falls in an entire year—an extreme weather event many have attributed to climate change.

“We are on target to (have the world warm by) 4 degrees Celsius this century. We don’t have to but the way we’re going we will,” he said. “We have the solution to climate change. We have all these options for producing energy—solar is cheaper than coal. We’re just not deploying them.”

Kerry said he’s fearful about the way Trump is making allies mad and breaking alliances.

A chain of command is important and that’s threatened with the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, he said.

“We have a President who is not equipped to do the job. He’s not balanced like normal persons would be. I am most dismayed that people I knew and liked and respected in the U.S. Senate are more interested in protecting their power than doing what needs to be done.”

At a time the world needs to be coming together it’s falling apart, demagoguery is rising, and Russia and China are saying the United States is in decline, he noted.

“Process is important, and it isn’t happening. Trump gets off the phone with Turkey and says, ‘We’re pulling out.’ Bob Woodward told us how Trump’s staff was taking documents off desk so he couldn’t sign them—that’s a crisis of confidence.  But I have confidence enough in the chain of command. I’m still not ready to push the panic button.”

Pulling troops out of Syria removes any leverage, U.S. negotiators have, he said.

“I keep being baffled by the notion that this guy has calls himself the world’s greatest negotiator. He says, ‘I don’t like a deal,’ and pulls out. If he had said: These are the things we need to do to make this to my liking, I guarantee he would’ve gotten what he wanted.

Giving up sovereignty when you’ve gotten 20 nations to do what you want is not giving up sovereignty, he added.

“Our way of doing things has got to stop. And Republicans have got to join in making that happen. Period,” he added.

Kerry he said he understood the frustration that caused many people “who are just not making it” to vote for Trump. It started with Newt Gingrich, then the Tea Party, then the Freedom Caucus.

“Trump’s just the hostile takeover of the Republican party that came because none of those entities delivered any of what they promised,” he said.

But, he said, the United States is not educating people in the way they need to be educated.

 “We’re experiencing industrial revolution-type change. It’s coming at us at digital pace. People have far more information coming at them than they can manage.”

What’s needed, he added, is to teach people how to sort truth from fiction.

“Because if we can’t agree on the basic facts, how can we create better railroads, install better power lines? We have to do a better job of educating.”

Kerry said he expects Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, to “drop some potentially serious stuff.”

“The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth means different thing to Trump. I’m as concerned as I’ve ever been,” he said.

Kerry added that he voted against Bill Clinton’s impeachment because the case didn’t meet the criteria of being “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  Whether such things will be involved in the current investigation remain to be seen.

But, he noted, Nixon won 49 states in 1972 and was gone by August because the institutions of the United States did their job.

“We have the ability as no other country to keep people accountable,” he said.

 Kerry was asked to suggest someone better than Trump to be president.

“I think just about anybody in America,” he replied.

 One way or another, all of us have an obligation to do something whether taking people to the polls on electionday or having people over to dinner to talk about issues.

“Democracy doesn’t go on auto pilot yet so many people think it does,” he said.

He recounted how he had been an election observer in a Third World country and was stunned to see a 90 percent turnout with voters standing for several hours in the hot sun.

“Are you kidding?” one man replied when Kerry expressed his incredulity. “I’ve waited 50 years for this.”

“Our democracy is threatened,” Kerry said. “We have to go out and fight to reclaim and redefine our democracy.”

One who pledged to do her part was Jeri Howland.

She restated her favorite takeaway from the evening: “There are now a thousand reasons to be incensed, and it’s cascading into a very dangerous place. Every one of us has an obligation.”

“If that was the only thing you heard, I think that was a good thing to hear,” she said.


Kerry said he and the late Sen. John Mcain established a special relationships while flying to the Middle East following Desert Storm in 1990. McCain described his five years in jail as a prisoner of war and then asked Kerry why he protested the war.

In the years following, the two worked together to account for missing servicemen—even today military personnel are combing Vietnam for scraps of clothing and teeth, Kerry said.

“If “(a former POW and a war protestor) can find common ground in a place called Hanoi, we can find common ground in a place called Washington,” he added.


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