As secretary of state, John Kerry still a champion of Massachusetts


German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Secretary of State John Kerry look at a painting during their meeting at the chancellery Tuesday in Berlin. (Kay Nietfeld/AP)
February 26, 2013

Call him secretary of the state. Massachusetts, that is.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry hasn’t lost the senatorial habit of home-state boosterism, even as he introduces himself to European audiences as the representative of all 50 of the United States of America.

Kerry has worked in at least one reference to “my state” nearly every time he has spoken on his inaugural foreign trip as secretary. Sometimes, it’s a lot more than one reference, as in a question-and-answer session with German students Tuesday.

When one questioner complimented Kerry’s pink seashell-print tie, Kerry volunteered that it can be purchased online from Vineyard Vines — as in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Kerry even helpfully noted that the preppy clothier was “inspired by my state, Massachusetts” but is actually headquartered in Connecticut.

On official business: A look at Secretary of State travel

Greeting employees at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on Tuesday, Kerry crowed that U.S. Ambassador Philip Murphy is a fellow “Boston boy.”

A day earlier, Kerry remarked that the U.S. Embassy in London sits near the spot “where, 225 years ago, John Adams was housed. Son of Massachusetts, I’m proud to say.”

Kerry came to the State Department job after three decades as a Massachusetts senator. He frequently jokes that he is a “recovering politician.”

Not all of Kerry’s Massachusetts mentions sound like a Chamber of Commerce ad, however.

During the Berlin question-and-answer session, Kerry gave an extended history lesson on the European pilgrims who came to Massachusetts seeking religious freedom but ended up burning people at the stake in Salem.

Rhode Island and Yale University were both founded by people fleeing intolerance in Massachusetts, Kerry added.

It took Americans a long time to develop true religious tolerance and freedom of speech, he said, but those principles are now deeply ingrained and protected by the courts.

Treading on sensitive ground in Germany, where neo-Nazi symbols have been banned and some neo-Nazi Twitter messages blocked, Kerry said he knows that the open airing of distasteful views in the United States can be jarring.

“That’s freedom,” Kerry said. “In America, you have a right to be stupid if you want to be.”

Even in Massachusetts.

Anne Gearan is The Washington Post's diplomatic correspondent.
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