At a Glance
- Career History: Democratic nominee for President (2004); U.S. Senator (since 1984); Lieutenant governor, Mass. (1983 to 1985)
- Birthday: Dec. 11, 1943
- Hometown: Denver, Colo.
- Alma Mater: Yale University, B.A., 1966; Boston College, J.D.,1976
- Spouse: Teresa Heinz
- Religion: Roman Catholic
- DC Office: 304 Russell Building; 202-224-274
Path to Power
Kerry was born in Denver, Colo., but he was raised all over the world. His father, a career Foreign Service officer, moved often with his family. Kerry said watching his father in action taught him the value of diplomacy.
He earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1966 and then enlisted in the Navy. He was sent immediately to Vietnam, where he served as a swift boat captain. While critics have charged he exaggerated his war exploits, Kerry maintains that he was in danger. He recounts that on one mission, "as I bent down to grab another gun, a stinging piece of heat socked into my arm and just seemed to burn like hell. By this time one of the sailors had started the engine and we ran by the beach strafing it. Then it was quiet." He eventually earned a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.
Kerry sees diplomacy as the single most effective means of restoring safety and prosperity to America. "We need to engage more directly and more respectfully with Islam," he told the New York Times . "And that's all about diplomacy."
He believes that the national security challenges of the next century will not be between countries. Instead they will be between organized governments and non-state actors. These crises, he writes in the Huffington Post , will require alliances between nations. "Today the very definition of national security is being rewritten to include threats that know no borders: global terror, global AIDS--lately--global finance," he writes.
Biden was Kerry's closest friend in the Senate. He is also close to fellow Vietnam vet and ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), the second-in-command on the Foreign Relations committee.
Kerry has also worked closely with McCain on several occasions. The two worked together to prove that there were probably no more living American captives in Vietnam in 1994, and have partnered on several pieces of legislation since. Kerry even flirted with inviting McCain to be his vice presidential candidate in 2004, though McCain tells a different story.