The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






John Kerry

John Kerry
John Kerry
Office (as of 2005): U.S. Senator, Massachusetts
Term of Office: January, 1985–Present
Date of Birth: Saturday, December 11, 1943
Place of Birth: Aurora, Colorado

(1) Julia Thorne, divorced
(2) Teresa Heinz Kerry


Alexandra Kerry, daughter
Vanessa Kerry, daughter
H. John Heinz IV, stepson
André Heinz, stepson
Christopher Heinz, stepson

Profession: Lawyer
Political Party: Democratic Party

John Forbes Kerry (born December 11, 1943) is the junior United States Senator from Massachusetts. In 2004, he ran an unsuccessful bid for the presidency as the Democratic Party's nominee, losing to incumbent president George W. Bush.


Early life and education

Kerry was born at the Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado outside Denver. His father, Richard Kerry, a World War II Army Air Corps test pilot, had been undergoing treatment there for tuberculosis.

Kerry's family returned to their home state of Massachusetts shortly after his birth. His family was Roman Catholic, and as a child John served as an altar boy.

Family background

Kerry was the second child of Richard John Kerry and Rosemary Forbes Kerry. He has three siblings: Margery (1941), Diana (1947) and Cameron (1950).

A misconception some Americans have is that John Forbes Kerry is related to billionaire publisher Malcolm Forbes and his son Steve Forbes, the latter of whom twice sought the Republican presidential nomination. In fact, the two Forbes clans are not related.

Another misconception regarding Kerry's upbringing is that his immediate family was wealthy. In truth, the Forbes family enjoyed a great fortune, but John's parents themselves were upper-middle class. Although John attended elite schools throughout Europe and New England, the tuition was paid by a wealthy great-aunt, as Richard Kerry's salary could not accommodate the schools attended by the Kerry children. However, John did mix and mingle with the upper class. Summers were spent at the Forbes family estate in France, and John enjoyed much greater extravagance there than he had come to know back in Massachusetts.

Paternal family background

Kerry's paternal grandfather, Frederick A. Kerry (born Fritz Kohn), was born on May 10, 1873 in the town of Horni Benesov, Austria-Hungary (in what is now the Moravian-Silesian Region of the Czech Republic), and grew up in Mödling, Austria (a small town near Vienna). His wife Ida (née Loewe) was born in Budapest, Hungary. They were both German-speaking Ashkenazi Jews. But in 1901, Fritz Kohn converted from Judaism to Catholicism and changed his name to Frederick Kerry. His wife Ida also converted at the same time. They then immigrated to the United States, arriving at Ellis Island in 1905. They raised their three children, including John's father, as Catholics. A Czech historian believes that Ida was a descendant of Sinai Loew, one of three older brothers of Rabbi Judah Loew (1525-August 22, 1609), a famous Kabbalist, philosopher and talmudist known as the Maharal of Prague. Two of Ida's siblings, Otto Loewe and Jenni Loewe, died in the Nazi extermination camps (Theresienstadt and Treblinka, respectively), after being deported from Vienna in 1942. Frederick Kerry himself committed suicide in the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston on November 23, 1921.

Richard John Kerry, John's father, was born on July 28, 1915 in Massachusetts. After a stint in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he worked for the Foreign Service and served as an attorney for the Bureau of United Nations Affairs in the U.S. Department of State.

In 1937, Richard Kerry met Rosemary Forbes, a member of the wealthy Forbes family. One of 11 children, she studied to be a nurse, and served in the Red Cross in Paris during World War II (she also was a Girl Scout leader for 50 years). The couple married in Montgomery, Alabama in January 1941.

Maternal family background

John Kerry's maternal grandfather, James Grant Forbes, was born in Shanghai, China, where the Forbes family of China and Boston accumulated a fortune in the opium and China trade. Forbes married Margaret Tyndal Winthrop, who came from a family with deep roots in New England history. Through her, John Kerry is related to four Presidents, including, ironically, George W. Bush (ninth cousin, twice removed). [1] [2]

Childhood years

Kerry has said that his first memory is from when he was three years old, of holding his crying mother's hand while they walked through the broken glass and rubble of her childhood home in Saint-Briac, France. This visit came shortly after the United States had liberated Saint-Briac from the Nazis on August 14, 1944. The family estate, known as Les Essarts, had been occupied and used as a Nazi headquarters during the war. When the Germans fled, they bombed Les Essarts and burnt it down.

The sprawling estate was rebuilt in 1954. Kerry and his parents would often spend the summer holidays there. Kerry occupied his time there racing his cousins on bicycles and challenging relatives to games of kick the can. During these summers, he became good friends with his first cousin Brice Lalonde, a future Socialist and Green Party leader in France who ran for president of France in 1981.

Because Kerry's family moved often, he attended several schools as a child. Many years later, he said that "to my chagrin, and everlasting damnation, I was always moving on and saying goodbye. It kind of had an effect on you. It steeled you. There wasn't a lot of permanence and roots. For kids, [that's] not the greatest thing." At an early age he attended St. Albans School in Washington D.C. He then went to a Swiss boarding school at age 11 while his family lived in Berlin. When he visited home, he biked around the city, exploring the ruins of the former Nazi capital, and even sneaking into the Soviet Sector, until his father found out and grounded him. As a boy, Kerry often spent time alone. He biked through France, took a ferry from Norway to England, one time camping alone in Sherwood Forest. While attending the boarding school, Kerry saw the film Scaramouche, which became his favorite movie. He later named his powerboat after the title character.

Boarding school (1957-1962)

John Kerry (right) in the St. Paul's yearbook, 1962, along with fellow members of the debate team
John Kerry (right) in the St. Paul's yearbook, 1962, along with fellow members of the debate team

While his father was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway, Kerry was sent to Massachusetts to attend boarding school. In 1957, he attended the Fessenden School in West Newton, a village in Newton, Massachusetts. There he met and became friends with Richard Pershing, grandson of the famed U.S. Gen. John Joseph Pershing.

The following year, he enrolled at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and graduated from there in 1962. His father's Foreign Service salary was not enough to pay the school's tuition; Kerry's childless great-aunt, Clara Winthrop, then very much advanced in age, voluntarily covered the costs. At St. Paul's, Kerry felt like an outsider because he was a Catholic and liberal while most of his fellow students were Republican Episcopalians.

Despite having difficulty fitting in, he made friends and developed his interests. He learned skills in public speaking and he became deeply interested in politics. In his free time, he enjoyed ice hockey and lacrosse, which he played on teams captained by classmate Robert S. Mueller III, the current director of the FBI. Kerry also played electric bass for the prep school's band The Electras, which produced an album in 1961. Only 500 copies were made. In 2004, one of the copies was auctioned on eBay for $2,551.

In 1959 Kerry founded the John Winant Society at St. Paul's to debate the issues of the day; the Society still exists there. In November of 1960, Kerry gave his first political speech, in favor of John F. Kennedy's election to the White House.

While living in the U.S., Kerry spent several summers at the Forbes family's estates on Naushon Island off Cape Cod.

Encounters with President Kennedy (1962)

In 1962, Kerry volunteered for Edward Kennedy's first Senatorial campaign. That summer, he began dating Janet Jennings Auchincloss (now deceased), Jacqueline Kennedy's half-sister. Auchincloss invited Kerry to visit her family's estate, Hammersmith Farm in Rhode Island. It was there that Kerry met President Kennedy for the first time.

When Kerry told Kennedy that he was about to enter Yale University, Kennedy grimaced because he had gone to rival school Harvard University. Kerry later recalled, "He smiled at me, laughed and said, 'Oh, don't worry about it. You know I'm a Yale man too now.'" According to Kerry, "The President uttered that famous comment about how he had the best of two worlds now: a Harvard education and Yale degree," in reference to the honorary degree he had received from Yale a few months earlier. Later that day, a White House photographer snapped a photo of Kerry sailing with Kennedy and his family in Narragansett Bay. They met again a few weeks later at the America's Cup race off the coast of Rhode Island.

Yale University (1962-1966)

In 1962, Kerry entered Yale University. There he majored in political science and graduated with a B.A. in 1966. He also played on the soccer, hockey, lacrosse, and fencing teams; in addition, he took flying lessons. To earn extra money during the summers, he loaded trucks in a grocery warehouse and sold encyclopedias door to door.

In his sophomore year Kerry became president of the Yale Political Union. His involvement with the Political Union gave him an opportunity to be involved with important issues of the day, such as the civil rights movement and Kennedy's New Frontier program. He was also inducted into the Skull and Bones Society.

Under the guidance of the speaking coach and history professor Rollin Osterweis, Kerry won dozens of debate contests against other college students from across the nation. In March 1965, as the Vietnam War escalated, he won the Ten Eyck prize as the best orator in the junior class for a speech that was critical of U.S. foreign policy. In the speech he said, "It is the specter of Western imperialism that causes more fear among Africans and Asians than communism, and thus it is self-defeating." [3]

Because of his public speaking skills, he was chosen to give the class oration at graduation. At the last moment, he rewrote his speech from the version that had already been published. The speech he delivered was a broad criticism of American foreign policy, including the war.

Military service (1966-1970)

Kerry served as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War, during the period from 1966 to 1970. His last tour in Vietnam was four months as officer in charge of a Swift boat in 1969. Kerry received several combat medals during this tour, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Kerry's military record received considerable attention during his political career, especially during his unsuccessful 2004 bid for the presidency.

Commission, training, and tour of duty on the USS Gridley

On February 18, 1966, Kerry enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve. [4] He began his active duty military service on August 19. After completing sixteen weeks of Officer Candidate School at the U.S. Naval Training Center in Newport, Rhode Island, he received his commission on December 16.

On January 3, 1967 Kerry began a ten-week Officer Damage Control Course at the Naval Schools Command on Treasure Island, California. On March 22, he reported to the U.S. Fleet Anti-Air Warfare Training Center for training as a Combat Information Center Watch Officer.

Kerry's first tour of duty was as an ensign on the guided missile frigate USS Gridley. On February 9, 1968, the Gridley set sail for a Western Pacific deployment. The next day, Kerry requested duty in Vietnam, listing as his first preference a position as the commander of a Fast Patrol Craft (PCF), also known as a "Swift boat." These 50-foot boats have aluminum hulls and have little or no armor, but are heavily armed and rely on speed. (Kerry's second choice was to be an officer in a river patrol boat, or "PBR", squadron.) "I didn't really want to get involved in the war," Kerry said in a book of Vietnam reminiscences published in 1986. "When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling and that's what I thought I was going to be doing." [5]

The Gridley traveled to several places, including Wellington in New Zealand, Subic Bay in the Philippines, and the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam. The executive officer of the Gridley has described the deployment: "We deployed from San Diego to the Vietnam theatre in early 1968 after only a six-month turnaround and spent most of a four month deployment on rescue station in the Gulf of Tonkin, standing by to pick up downed aviators. It was a fairly grueling tour of duty. Our helicopter was shot up trying to rescue a downed pilot and the door gunner was killed. The crew performed well and John Kerry’s performance in all aspects of his duty was outstanding." [6] The ship departed for the U.S. on May 27 and returned to port at Long Beach, California on June 6. Ten days after returning, on June 16, Kerry was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, junior grade. On June 20, he left the Gridley for special Swift boat training at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado.

Kerry's tour of duty as commander of a Swift boat

On November 17, 1968, Kerry reported for duty at Coastal Squadron 1 in Cam Ranh Bay in South Vietnam. Kerry took part in Operation Sea Lords, the brainchild of Admiral Elmo Zumwalt. The goal was to project a U.S. military presence more aggressively into an area that had long been a Viet Cong stronghold. As part of that plan, the Swift boats were assigned to patrol the narrow waterways — inlets, canals, and coves — of the Mekong River delta, to monitor enemy movements, interdict enemy river-based supply lines, invite attack and otherwise draw out hostile forces.

During his tour of duty as an Officer in Charge of Swift boats, Kerry led five-man crews on patrols into enemy-controlled areas. His first command was Swift boat PCF-44, from December 6, 1968 to January 21, 1969, when the crew was disbanded. They were based at Coastal Division 13 at Cat Lo from December 13 to January 6. Otherwise, they were stationed at Coastal Division 11 at An Thoi. On January 30, Kerry took charge of PCF-94 and its crew, which he led until he departed An Thoi on March 26 and the crew was disbanded. [7]

First Purple Heart

During the night of December 2, 1968 and early morning of December 3, Kerry was in charge of a small boat operating in and around a peninsula north of Cam Ranh Bay together with a Swift boat (PCF-60). Kerry's boat surprised a group of men unloading sampans at a river crossing, who began to run. When the men refused to obey an order to stop running, Kerry and his crew of two enlisted men opened fire, destroyed the sampans, and took off. During this encounter, Kerry suffered a shrapnel wound in the left arm above the elbow. The shrapnel was removed and the wound was treated with bacitracin antibiotic and bandaged. Kerry returned to duty the next day on a regular Swift boat patrol. Kerry was awarded his first Purple Heart for this injury.

Meeting with Zumwalt and Abrams

At the time, the U.S. military command in Vietnam had an established policy of "free-fire zones" — areas in which soldiers were to shoot anyone moving around after curfew, without first making sure that they were hostile. Such encounters could result in the deaths of innocent civilians. Kerry has stated that he never thought he or his crew were at fault: "There wasn't anybody in that area that didn't know you don't move at night, that you don't go out in a sampan on the rivers, and there's a curfew." Nevertheless, he soon concluded that the policy should be changed.

On January 22, 1969, Kerry and several other officers had an unusual meeting in Saigon with Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the commander of U.S. Naval forces in Vietnam, and U.S. Army General Creighton Abrams, the overall commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam. Kerry and the other officers reported that the "free-fire" policy was alienating the Vietnamese and that the Swift boats' actions were not accomplishing their ostensible goal of interdicting Viet Cong supply lines. According to some who retell the story, Kerry and the other visiting officers' concerns were dismissed with what amounted to a pep talk. One of the other officers who participated later recalled, "We all looked at each other and thought, 'What is this crap?'" Kerry later said that the Saigon meeting left him "more depressed than when I came."

Second Purple Heart

Kerry received his second Purple Heart for action on the Bo De river on February 20, 1969. The plan had been for the Swift boats to be accompanied by support helicopters. On the way up the Bo De, however, the helicopters were attacked. They returned to their base to refuel and were unable to return to the mission for several hours. Kerry recorded the situation in his notebook: "We therefore had a choice: to wait for what was not a confirmed return by the helos [and] give any snipers more time to set up an ambush for our exit or we could take a chance and exit immediately without any cover. We chose the latter."

As the Swift boats reached the Cua Lon river, Kerry's boat was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade round, and a piece of hot shrapnel hit Kerry's left leg. Thereafter, they had no more trouble, and reached the Gulf of Thailand safely. Kerry still has shrapnel in his left thigh because the doctors tending to him decided to remove the damaged tissue and close the wound with sutures rather than make a wide opening to remove the shrapnel. Kerry received his second Purple Heart for this injury, but he did not take any time off from duty.

Silver Star

Only eight days later, on February 28, came the incident for which Kerry was awarded the Silver Star. On this occasion, Kerry was in tactical command of his Swift boat and two others. Their mission included bringing a demolition team and dozens of South Vietnamese soldiers to destroy enemy sampans, structures and bunkers. Along the Bay Hap river, they ran into an ambush. Kerry directed the boats "to turn to the beach and charge the Viet Cong positions" and he "expertly directed" his boat's fire and coordinated the deployment of the South Vietnamese troops, according to Admiral Zumwalt's original medal citation .

After the South Vietnamese troops and a team of three U.S. Army advisors that were with them had disembarked at the ambush site, Kerry's boat and another headed up river to look for the fleeing enemy. The two boats came under fire from a Viet Cong B-40 rocket-propelled grenade, shattering the crew cabin windows of PCF-94. Kerry ordered the boats to turn and charge the second ambush site. As they reached the shore, a Viet Cong soldier jumped out of the brush, carrying a loaded B-40 launcher. With the enemy soldier only a short distance away from the boat and crew, forward gunner Tommy Belodeau shot him in the leg with the boat's 7.62x51 caliber M-60 machine gun. "Tommy in the pit tank winged him in the side of the legs as he was coming across," Fred Short said. "But the guy didn't miss a stride. I mean, he did not break stride." Belodeau's machine gun jammed after he fired, and while fellow crewmate Michael Medeiros attempted to fire, he was unable to do so. Kerry leaped ashore and, followed by Medeiros, pursued the man and killed him. The medal citation notes that Kerry "then led an assault party and conducted a sweep of the area" until the enemy had "been completely routed." The mission was judged highly successful for having destroyed numerous targets and confiscated substantial combat supplies while sustaining no casualties.

Kerry's commanding officer, Lieutenant George Elliott, joked that he didn't know whether to court-martial him for beaching the boat without orders or give him a medal for saving the crew. Elliott recommended Kerry for the Silver Star, and Zumwalt flew into An Thoi to personally award medals to Kerry and the rest of the sailors involved in the mission. The Navy's account of Kerry's actions is presented in the original medal citation signed by Zumwalt. In addition, the after-action reports for this mission are available, along with the original press release written on March 1, a historical summary dated March 17, and more. [8]

Sources close to Kerry say the incident had a profound effect on him: "It's the reason he gets so angry when his patriotism is challenged. It was a traumatic experience that's still with him, and he went through it for his country." It affects the way Kerry lives his life every day, the source said, since "he knows he very well would not be alive today had he not taken the life of another man [he] never ever met." [9]

Bronze Star and third Purple Heart

Kerry is awarded the . For his service during the , Kerry also received the and three .
Kerry is awarded the Bronze Star. For his service during the Vietnam War, Kerry also received the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.

On March 13, five Swift boats were returning to base together on the Bay Hap river from their missions that day. A mine detonated directly beneath one of the boats (PCF-3), lifting it into the air. Shortly thereafter, another mine exploded near Kerry's boat (PCF-94). James Rassmann, a Green Beret advisor who was sitting on the deck of the pilothouse eating a chocolate chip cookie, was knocked overboard. Just afterwards, the boat came under attack from both sides of the bank. Rassmann dived to the bottom of the river. Coming back up for air, the enemy repeatedly fired at him. Rassmann was heading to the north bank, expecting to be taken prisoner, when Kerry realized he was gone and came back for him.

The Navy's account of Kerry's actions is presented in his medal citation:

Lt. Kerry directed his gunners to provide suppressing fire, while from an exposed position on the bow, his arm bleeding and in pain, with disregard for his personal safety, he pulled the man aboard. Lt. Kerry then directed his boat to return and assist the other damaged craft and towed the boat to safety. Lt. Kerry's calmness, professionalism and great personal courage under fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the US Naval Service. (Wikisource )

PCF-94 received special recognition from Captain Roy Hoffmann, the commander of Task Force 115 (which included Coastal Division 11), on March 14 in his weekly report to his men:

Special recognition is due to the following unit this week, for exceptional performance: To PCF 94 for providing extraordinary assistance to PCF 3 which was seriously damaged by a mine explosion while proceeding down the Bay Hap [river]. PCF 94 picked up the MSF advisor out of the water and towed PCF 3 out of the danger area. PCF 43, 51, and 23 all assisted in suppression of automatic weapons and small arms fire, evacuation of wounded in action, and damage control effort on PCF 3. [10]

After the dazed and injured crew of PCF-3 had been rescued, PCFs 43 and 23 left the scene to evacuate the four most seriously wounded sailors. PCFs 51 and 94 remained behind and helped salvage the stricken boat together with a damage-control party that had been immediately dispatched to the scene.

Kerry was wounded twice that day, and he would receive his third Purple Heart. His injuries included shrapnel wounds in his left upper buttock, which were treated with antiseptic lotion and bandaged. He also suffered contusions on his right forearm from hitting the bulkhead when the mine exploded near his boat, which was treated with warm soaking.

Return from Vietnam

On March 17, 1969, shortly after Kerry's third wound, Commodore Charles Horne, the commander of Coastal Squadron 1, filed a request for Kerry's reassignment to the U.S. He was entitled to this early departure from Vietnam (subject to approval by the Bureau of Naval Personnel), because those who had been wounded three times, "regardless of the nature of the wound or treatment required ... will not be ordered to serve in Vietnam and contiguous waters or to duty with ships or units which have been alerted for movement to that area." According to the Navy regulation that governed this (BUPERS Instruction 1300.39), the request for the "thrice-wounded reassignment" was required no matter what. If Kerry wanted to stay, he was required to file a second, written request to waive the reassignment. [11]

On March 26, after a final patrol at night on March 25, Kerry was transferred to Cam Ranh Bay to await his orders. He was there for five or six days and left Vietnam in early April. On April 11, he reported to the Brooklyn-based Atlantic Military Sea Transportation Service, where he would remain on active duty for the following year as a personal aide to an officer, Rear Admiral Walter Schlech . On January 1, 1970 Kerry was promoted to full Lieutenant; on January 3, he requested discharge. He was released from active duty on March 1.

All told, John Kerry was on active duty in the U.S. Navy for three years and eight months, from August 1966 until March 1970. He lost five friends in the war, including Yale classmate Richard Pershing, who was killed in action on February 17, 1968.

Criticism of military service and awards

Critics have questioned several aspects of Kerry's military service. As the presidential campaign of 2004 developed, around 200 Vietnam-era veterans formed the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) and held press conferences, ran ads, and endorsed a book questioning Kerry's service record and his military awards. Several SBVT members were in the same unit with Kerry, but only one, Stephen Gardner, served on the same boat. Other SBVT members included two of Kerry's former commanding officers, Grant Hibbard and George Elliott. Hibbard and Elliott have alleged, respectively, that Kerry's first Purple Heart and Silver Star were undeserved. In addition, members of SBVT have questioned his other medals and his truthfulness in testimony about the war. Defenders of John Kerry's war record, including nearly all of his surviving former crewmates, have charged that organizers of SBVT had close ties to the Bush presidential campaign and that the accusations were false and politically motivated. For more detail on this, see John Kerry military service controversy.

Anti-Vietnam War activism (1970-1971)

Joining the Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Once back in the United States, Kerry joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Numbering about 20,000 [12], VVAW was considered by some (including the administration of President Richard Nixon) to be an effective component of the antiwar movement. VVAW's members, including Kerry, could speak with personal knowledge about what they had seen in Vietnam. Beyond such specifics, however, they were seen as having "paid their dues" in Vietnam, and therefore being entitled to at least a respectful hearing. Americans who opposed the war were grateful for VVAW's work. Many Vietnam veterans saw the organization as giving voice to the views of the common soldier in exposing official deceit. Many other veterans, however, such as those who in 2004 formed Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, deeply resented the VVAW's activities, feeling that their own military service was being attacked or cheapened.

Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

On April 22, 1971, Kerry became the first Vietnam veteran to testify before Congress about the war, when he appeared before a Senate committee hearing on proposals relating to ending the war. Wearing green fatigues and service ribbons, he spoke for nearly two hours with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in what has been named the Fulbright Hearing, after the Chairman of the proceedings, Senator J.W. Fulbright. Kerry began with a prepared speech, in which he presented the conclusions of the Winter Soldier Investigation, where veterans had described personally committing or witnessing war crimes. Kerry did not say he had seen them himself. He also addressed the problems faced by returning veterans.

Most of his testimony addressed the larger policy issues. Kerry expressed his view that the war was essentially a civil war and that nothing in Vietnam was a realistic threat to the United States. He argued that the real reason for the continued fighting was political purposes: "Someone has to die so that President Nixon won't be, and these are his words, 'the first President to lose a war.'" That conclusion led him to ask: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

Senator Fulbright asked Kerry if he supported any of the proposals before the committee. Kerry responded that, based on his conversations in Paris with both Communist delegations to the peace talks (North Vietnamese and Viet Cong), he agreed with Senator Vance Hartke that, if the United States set a date for its withdrawal, it could then obtain the release of its prisoners of war. transcriptaudio

The protest at the U.S. Capitol

The day after this testimony, Kerry participated in a demonstration with 800 other veterans in which he and other veterans threw their medals and ribbons over a fence at the front steps of the U.S. Capitol building to dramatize their opposition to the war. Jack Smith, a Marine, read a statement explaining why the veterans were returning their military awards to the government. For more than two hours, angry veterans tossed their medals, ribbons, hats, jackets, and military papers over the fence. Each veteran gave his or her name, hometown, branch of service and a statement. As Kerry threw his ribbons and the medals of two other absent veterans over the fence, his statement was: "I'm not doing this for any violent reasons, but for peace and justice, and to try and make this country wake up once and for all." Some have questioned whether he gave up his own medals or just the ribbons during the demonstration at the Capitol; see John Kerry VVAW controversy for a full discussion.

Media appearances

Because Kerry was a decorated veteran who took a stand against the government's official position, he was frequently interviewed by broadcast and print media. He was able to use these occasions to bring the themes of his Senate testimony to a wider audience.

For example, Kerry appeared more than once on The Dick Cavett Show on ABC television. On one Cavett program (June 30, 1971), in debating John O'Neill, Kerry argued that some of the policies instituted by the U.S. military leaders in Vietnam, such as free-fire zones and burning noncombatants' houses, were contrary to the laws of war. In the Washington Star newspaper (June 6, 1971), he recounted how he and other Swift boat officers had become disillusioned by the contrast between what the leaders told them and what they saw: "That's when I realized I could never remain silent about the realities of the war in Vietnam."

On NBC's Meet The Press in 1971, Kerry said he committed "the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed" in Vietnam. He made this admission in the context of criticism of free-fire zones and other alleged violations of the Geneva Convention.

Operation POW

Kerry's prominence also made him a frequent leader and spokesman at antiwar events around the country in 1971. One of particular note was Operation POW, organized by the VVAW in Massachusetts. The protest got its name from the group's concern that Americans were prisoners of the Vietnam War, as well as to honor American POWs held captive by North Vietnam.

The event sought to tie antiwar activism to patriotic themes. Over the Memorial Day weekend, veterans and other participants marched from Concord to a rally on Boston Common. The plan was to invoke the spirit of the American Revolution and Paul Revere by spending successive nights at the sites of the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill, culminating in a Memorial Day rally with a public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

The second night of the march, May 29, was the occasion for Kerry's only arrest, when the participants tried to camp on the village green in Lexington. At 2:30 a.m. on May 30, local and state police awoke and arrested 441 demonstrators, including Kerry, for trespassing. All were given the Miranda Warning and were hauled away on school buses to spend the night at the Lexington Public Works Garage. Kerry and the other protestors later paid a $5 fine and were released. At the time, Kerry's wife kept $100 under her pillow in case she needed to bail her husband out of jail if he was arrested at a protest. The mass arrests caused a community backlash and ended up giving positive coverage to the VVAW.

Despite his important role in Operation POW and other VVAW events, as time went on Kerry found that VVAW was becoming more radical. Kerry was trying to moderate the group, to push it in the direction of nonviolence and working within the system. Other members, however, were more militant. Kerry eventually quit the organization over this difference in approach. Some have raised questions about exactly when Kerry left VVAW; see John Kerry VVAW controversy for a full discussion.

Early career (1972-1985)

Campaigning for Congress (1970s)

In the early 1970s, Kerry wanted to extend his political work beyond protesting. Although some antiwar activists were dismissive of electoral politics, Kerry's choice was to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Although his activism had brought him national recognition, he had no strong ties to any particular congressional district in Massachusetts.

He was then living in Waltham, where he considered running in 1970. Early in that election, however, there was an agreement among the prospective antiwar candidates that all would participate in a caucus to unite behind a single Democratic primary challenger to the pro-war incumbent, Philip J. Philbin . In the caucus, Kerry placed second to Father Robert Drinan, a Jesuit priest. Kerry accordingly supported Drinan, who won the seat.

In 1972, Kerry had no reason to challenge Drinan. In February, Kerry's wife, Julia, bought a house in Worcester. Residence there would have enabled Kerry to run against a different incumbent, Harold D. Donohue . Instead of moving to Worcester, however, the couple rented an apartment in Lowell. The incumbent in that district, F. Bradford Morse , was a Republican who was thought to be retiring.

Kerry entered the Democratic primary against nine other candidates. His campaign headquarters and one of his opponents', state Representative Anthony R. DiFruscia of Lawrence, were in the same building. On the eve of the September primary, Kerry's younger brother Cameron and campaign field director Thomas J. Vallely , both then 22 years old, were found in the basement, where telephone lines were located. They were arrested and charged with "breaking and entering with the intent to commit grand larceny," but the case was dismissed about a year later by superior court. DiFruscia charged that they were trying to disrupt his get-out-the vote efforts. Vallely and Cameron Kerry maintained that they were only checking their own telephone lines because they had received an anonymous call warning that the Kerry lines would be cut. Cameron Kerry, saying that the police arrived with suspicious alacrity, concluded that political opponents had set him up. "It was an impulsive, rash thing that we did and that John Kerry ended up having to deal with", he added. [13] [14]

Although Kerry's campaign was hurt by the election-day report of the arrest, he still won the primary by a comfortable margin over state Representative Paul J. Sheehy. DiFruscia placed third. Kerry lost in Lawrence and Lowell, his chief opponents' bases, but placed first in 18 of the district's 22 towns.

In the general election, Kerry was initially favored to defeat the Republican candidate, former state Representative Paul W. Cronin , and an independent, Roger P. Durkin. A major obstacle, however, was the district's leading newspaper, the conservative Lowell Sun. The paper editorialized against him. It also ran critical news stories about his out-of-state contributions and his "carpetbagging", because he had moved into the district only in April. The final blow came when, four days before the election, Durkin withdrew in favor of Cronin. Cronin won the election.

Career in law and politics (1972-1985)

After Kerry's 1972 defeat, he and his wife bought a house in Lowell. He spent some time working as a fundraiser for the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), an international humanitarian organization. He decided that the best way for him to continue in public life was to study law. In September 1973, he entered Boston College Law School at Newton, Massachusetts. In July 1974, while attending law school, Kerry was named executive director of Mass Action, a Massachusetts advocacy association.

He received his law degree in 1976. While in law school he had been a student prosecutor in the office of the District Attorney of Middlesex County, John J. Droney. After passing the bar exam and being admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1976, he went to work in that office as a full-time prosecutor.

In January 1977, Droney promoted him to First Assistant District Attorney. In that position, Kerry balanced two key roles. First, he tried cases and won convictions in both a high-profile rape case and a murder. Second, he played a role in administering the office of the district attorney by initiating the creation of special white-collar and organized crime units, creating programs to address the problems of rape and other crime victims and of witnesses, and managing trial calendars to reflect case priorities.

In 1979, Kerry resigned from the District Attorney's office to set up a private law firm with another former prosecutor. He also joined with a friend to open a small cookie and muffin shop in Boston's Quincy Market area. The partners named it "Kilvert & Forbes" after their mothers' maiden names. Kerry sold his interest in the business in 1988. (The store still exists today as "Maggie's Sweets." The current owners, Carol Troxell and Sara Youngelson, supplied 1,000 gift bags of "John Kerry Chocolate Chip Cookies"—made with Kerry's mother's original recipe—to the media walkthrough at the Democratic Convention.)

Although his private law practice was a success, Kerry was still interested in public office. He decided to re-enter electoral politics by running for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. He won a narrow victory in the 1982 Democratic primary. The ticket, with Michael Dukakis as the gubernatorial candidate, won the general election without difficulty.

The position of Lieutenant Governor carried few inherent responsibilities. Dukakis, however, delegated additional matters to Kerry. In particular, Kerry's interest in environmental protection led him to become heavily involved in the issue of acid rain. His work contributed to a National Governors Association resolution in 1984 that was a precursor to the 1990 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act.

One of the U.S. Senators from Massachusetts, Paul Tsongas, announced in 1984 that he would be stepping down for health reasons. Kerry decided to run for the seat. As in his 1982 race for Lieutenant Governor, he did not receive the endorsement of the party regulars at the state Democratic convention. Again as in 1982, however, he prevailed in a close primary. In his campaign he promised to mix liberalism with tight budget controls. As the Democratic candidate he was elected to the Senate despite a nationwide landslide for the re-election of Republican president Ronald Reagan. In his acceptance speech, Kerry asserted that his win meant that the people of Massachusetts "emphatically reject the politics of selfishness and the notion that women must be treated as second-class citizens." Kerry was sworn in as a U.S. Senator in January 1985.

Service in the U.S. Senate (1985-present)

Meeting with Ortega

On April 18, 1985, a few months after taking his Senate seat, Kerry and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa traveled to Nicaragua and met the country's president, Daniel Ortega. Though Ortega was democratically elected, the trip was criticized because Ortega and his leftist Sandinista government had strong ties to Cuba and the USSR. The Sandinista government was opposed by the right-wing CIA-backed rebels known as the Contras. While in Nicaragua, Kerry and Harkin talked to people on both sides of the conflict. Through the senators, Ortega offered a cease-fire agreement in exchange for the US dropping support of the Contras. The offer was denounced by the Reagan administration as a "propaganda initiative" designed to influence a House vote on a $14 million Contra aid package, but Kerry said "I am take the risk in the effort to put to test the good faith of the Sandinistas." The House voted down the Contra aid, but Ortega flew to Moscow to accept a $200 million loan the next day, an act which in part prompted the House to pass a larger $27 million aid package six weeks later.

Iran-Contra hearings

In April 1986, Kerry and Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, proposed that hearings be conducted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding charges of Contra involvement in cocaine and marijuana trafficking. Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the Republican chairman of the committee, agreed to conduct the hearings.

Meanwhile, Kerry's staff began their own investigations, and on October 14 issued a report which exposed illegal activities on the part of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who had set up a private network involving the National Security Council and the CIA to deliver military equipment to right-wing Nicaraguan rebels (Contras). In effect, North and certain members of the President's administration were accused by Kerry's report of illegally funding and supplying armed militants without the authorization of Congress.

These parties were said to be involved in shipping cocaine and marijuana to the United States, with the profits from the sales going to pay for the Contra weaponry. The investigation, Kerry's report said, raised "serious questions about whether the United States has abided by the law in its handling of the contras over the past three years." The Kerry report generated a firestorm of controversy and marked the beginning of years of investigations, hearings, and televised proceedings, which altogether, were referred to by some as the Iran-Contra affair. On May 4, 1989, North was convicted of charges relating to the Iran/Contra controversy, including three felonies. On September 16, 1991, however, North's convictions were overturned on appeal because North's testimony before Congress under immunity may have affected testimony in the trial. [15][16]

Other investigations

Kerry's inquiry eventually widened, expanding its focus from the Contras to U.S. involvement in Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, Panama, and Honduras. In 1989, he released a report that slammed the Reagan administration for neglecting and undermining anti-drug efforts while pursuing other objectives in foreign policy. The report contended that the U.S. government "turned a blind eye" in the 1980s to the corruption and drug dealings of CIA-backed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who had assisted the Contras. Kerry's report concluded that the CIA and the State Department had known that "individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking...and elements of the contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers." While some critics attacked him as being a "conspiracy theorist," the CIA inspector general released a pair of reports that confirmed Kerry's findings ten years later.

Kerry and the George H.W. Bush administration

On November 15, 1988, at a businessmen's breakfast in East Lynn, Massachusetts, Kerry made a joke about president-elect George H.W. Bush and his running mate, saying "if Bush is shot, the Secret Service has orders to shoot Dan Quayle." He apologized the following day.

During their investigation of Noriega, Kerry's staff found reason to believe that the Pakistan-based Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) had facilitated Noriega's drug trafficking and money laundering. This led to a separate inquiry into BCCI, and as a result, banking regulators shut down BCCI in 1991. In December 1992, Kerry and Senator Hank Brown, a Republican from Colorado, released The BCCI Affair, a report on the BCCI scandal. The report showed that the bank was crooked and was working with terrorists, including Abu Nidal. It blasted the Department of Justice, the Department of the Treasury, the Customs Service, the Federal Reserve Bank, as well as influential lobbyists and the CIA. [17]

One of the Bush administration figures criticized for his handling of BCCI was Robert Mueller who, in his then-role as Deputy Attorney General , was criticized about slow performance regarding the investigation. Kerry himself was criticized in some circles for not pressing harder against certain Democrats, and he was also criticized by some Democrats for pursuing his own party members, including former Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford. The BCCI scandal was later turned over to the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

Kerry and Iraq

Kerry opposed the bill to allow President George H. W. Bush to go to war against Iraq in 1991. The United Nations had imposed sanctions on Iraq, and Kerry argued that the sanctions then in place should be given more time to work.

The second President Bush argued that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was actively developing weapons of mass destruction (see Yellowcake Forgery). Kerry cited the "threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction" as his principal reason for supporting the resolution authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq. Bush relied on that resolution in ordering the 2003 invasion of Iraq. When the subsequent occupation of Iraq failed to find any evidence of such weapons, Kerry attacked Bush for having misled the country: "When the president of the United States looks at you and tells you something, there should be some trust." [18] Nevertheless, Kerry has upset many liberals by saying that he does not regret being one of 29 Democratic Senators to support the resolution. He has stated that he had hoped the threat of force would induce Saddam Hussein to comply with United Nations resolutions, but that the Bush administration rushed into war.

During the 2004 Presidential campaign, Bush criticized Kerry for his vote in September, 2003 against a bill for an additional US$87 billion for expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush campaign also attacked Kerry for saying "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it". Kerry co-sponsored a bill that would have provided the $87 billion and funded it by reversing some of Bush's tax cuts, but voted against the bill that provided $87 billion through deficit spending.

Kerry has also contended that Iraq has become a diversion from the fight against terrorism and Osama bin Laden.

Sponsorship of legislation

Main article: Sponsorship of legislation by John Kerry

Kerry has sponsored or cosponsored hundreds of bills during his time as a Senator. Areas of concern in the bills include small business concerns, education, terrorism, veterans' and POW-MIA issues, and marine resource protection .

Political chairmanship and presidential nomination

Kerry was the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 1987 to 1989. He was reelected to the Senate in 1990, 1996 (after winning re-election against the then-Governor of Massachusetts, Republican William Weld), and 2002. His current term will end on January 3 2009.

In 2003 and 2004, the Presidential campaign of John Kerry defeated several Democratic rivals, including Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark. Kerry thus won the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States against incumbent George W. Bush. On July 6, 2004, he announced his selection of John Edwards as his running mate.

On November 3, 2004, Kerry conceded the Presidential race to Bush. Kerry won 57.9 million votes or about 48 percent of the popular vote; Bush won 61.1 million votes, or about 51 percent of the popular vote. Kerry carried states with a total of 252 electoral votes, but one Kerry elector voted for Kerry's running mate, Edwards, so in the final tally Kerry had 251 electoral votes to Bush's 286. Although, as in the 2000 election, there were disputes about the voting (see 2004 U.S. Election controversies and irregularities), no state was as close as Florida had been in 2000.

Committee assignments

In the Senate, Kerry serves on several committees:

Kerry was the chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship from 2001 to 2003, but lost the position when Republicans regained control of the Senate. He remains the ranking member.

Kerry also serves on several Senate subcommittees:

  • Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries and the Environment (ranking member)
  • Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs . (ranking member)
  • Subcommittee on Communications
  • Subcommittee on Transportation
  • Subcommittee on Health Care
  • Subcommittee on International Trade
  • Subcommittee on Social Security and Family Policy
  • Subcommittee on European Affairs
  • Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps & Narcotics Affairs

Issues and voting record

For information on Kerry's political views and voting record, see John Kerry presidential campaign, 2004.

For Senator John Kerry's voting record, go to Massachusetts Senator John Forbes Kerry.

Career future

Immediately after the 2004 election, some Democrats mentioned Kerry as a possible contender for the 2008 Democratic nomination. His brother has said such a campaign is "conceivable," and Kerry himself reportedly said at a farewell party for his 2004 campaign staff, "There's always another four years." Some aides, however, have stated that Kerry told campaign officials he could not envision another run. [19]

Kerry's campaign fund still holds some unspent money that he raised in running for the 2004 Democratic nomination, because he was not allowed to spend it in the general election. In mid-October, 2004, this sum was about $45 million. He donated most of that to the Democratic National Committee and to state Democratic parties, but he has at least $15 million left, which could be used directly for another presidential campaign, or indirectly to build his stature within the party by helping other Democratic candidates. He has also established a separate political action committee that can raise money and channel contributions to Democratic candidates in state and federal races. [20]

Home life and interests

John and Teresa Kerry on the campaign trail in 2004.
John and Teresa Kerry on the campaign trail in 2004.

At 6' 4¾" (195 cm) and 185 pounds (84 kg), Kerry has been called the "Lanky Yankee." If he had won the 2004 Presidential election he would have been the tallest President in history (surpassing Abraham Lincoln). His oldest friends and family call him "Johnny." He speaks fluent French. He enjoys surfing and windsurfing, as well as ice hockey, hunting, and playing bass guitar. According to an interview he gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 2004, Kerry's favorite album is Abbey Road and he is a fan of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, as well as of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Buffett. [21] During his 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry used Bruce Springsteen's No Surrender as his campaign theme song.

Kerry is also known as an avid cyclist, primarily riding on a road bike. Prior to his Presidential bid, John Kerry was known to have participated in several long-distance rides (centuries). Even during his many campaigns, he was reported to have visited bicycle stores both in his home state and elsewhere.

In 2004, he named his favorite books as Trinity, by Leon Uris; Flags of Our Fathers, by James Bradley and Ron Powers; and Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose. He had recently read Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, by Margaret MacMillan. [22] Previous reading during the campaign included Rogue Nation, by Clyde Prestowitz, and Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich. His favorite movies are Giant and Casablanca.

The Kerrys have a German Shepherd named Cym (pronounced "Kim") and a yellow canary named Sunshine. His favorite food is chocolate chip cookies.

In 2003, John Kerry was diagnosed with and successfully treated for prostate cancer.


Kerry was married to Julia Thorne in 1970, and they had two children together. Alexandra Kerry was born on September 5, 1973, days before Kerry began law school. She graduated in June 2004 from a film school in the Los Angeles area. Vanessa Kerry was born on December 31, 1976. She is a graduate of Phillips Academy (like her grandfather) and Yale University, and is currently a student at Harvard Medical School. Vanessa has been active in her father's Presidential campaign.

In 1982 Thorne, who was suffering from severe depression, asked Kerry for a separation. [23] They were divorced on July 25, 1988. "After 14 years as a political wife, I associated politics only with anger, fear and loneliness" she wrote in A Change of Heart, her book about depression. The marriage was formally annulled by the Roman Catholic Church in 1997. Thorne later married Richard Charlesworth , an architect, and moved to Bozeman, Montana, where she became active in local environmental groups such as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. During the 2004 campaign she announced that she was "100% behind" Kerry's candidacy for President.

Between his first and second marriages, Kerry dated actresses Morgan Fairchild and Catherine Oxenberg.

Kerry and his second wife, Teresa Simões-Ferreira Heinz, the widow of Pennsylvania Senator H. John Heinz III, a Republican, and former United Nations translator, were introduced to each other by John Heinz at an Earth Day rally in 1990. They did not meet again until after John Heinz's death, at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. They married on May 26, 1995, in Nantucket. Teresa's three sons from her previous marriage—John Kerry's stepsons—are H. John Heinz IV, André Heinz, and Christopher Heinz.

The Forbes 400 survey estimated in 2004 that Teresa Heinz Kerry had a net worth of $750 million. However, estimates have frequently varied, ranging from around $165 million to as high as $3.2 billion, according to a study in the Los Angeles Times. Regardless of which figure is given, Kerry is the wealthiest U.S. Senator. Kerry is wealthy in his own name, and is the beneficiary of at least four trusts inherited from Forbes family members, including his mother, who died in 2002. Forbes magazine (a major business magazine named for an unrelated Forbes family) estimated that if elected, Kerry would be the third-richest U.S. President in history. This assessment was based on the couple's combined assets, but Kerry and Heinz signed a pre-nuptial agreement that keeps their assets separate. [24] Kerry's financial disclosure form for 2002 put his personal assets in the range of $409,000 to $1.8 million, with additional assets held jointly by Kerry and his wife in the range of $300,000 to $600,000. [25]

John Kerry has two sisters, Diana and Peggy, and a brother, Cameron , who is a litigator in Boston. Cameron converted to Judaism in 1983 and recently led a Kerry campaign effort in Israel to reach American expatriate voters.

See also

  • Going Upriver, a documentary film about Kerry's Vietnam war and anti-war activities based on Douglas Brinkley's biography Tour of Duty.

External links and references


Print media

Online media


Further reading

  • Brinkley, Douglas, Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, William Morrow & Company, 2004. ISBN 0060565233
  • Kerry, John and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, The New Soldier, MacMillan Publishing Company, 1971. ASIN 002073610X
  • Kerry, John, The New War: The Web of Crime That Threatens America's Security, Simon & Schuster, 1997. ISBN 0684818159
  • Kerry, John, A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America, Viking Press, 2003. ISBN 0670032603
  • Kranish, Michael, Brian C. Mooney, and Nina J. Easton. John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best, PublicAffairs, 2004. ISBN 1586482734.
  • O'Neill, John E. & Corsi, Jerome R. Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, Regnery Publishing, 2004. ISBN 0895260174

|- style="text-align:left; border-left:hidden; border-right:hidden; border-bottom:hidden;" | colspan="3"| (b) As of April 8, 2005, Kerry is the most recent Democratic Party Presidential candidate.

Last updated: 07-30-2005 16:40:47
The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy