In his first public address on foreign policy as secretary of state, John Kerry on Wednesday invoked anti-tax activist Grover Norquist as he made the case for funding of U.S. diplomatic efforts.

“Unfortunately, the State Department doesn't have our own Grover Norquist pushing a pledge to protect it,” Kerry said at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. He added that State, unlike interest groups such as AARP, lacks millions of dues-paying members who unite to rally behind it.

During his time as a Massachusetts senator, Kerry – like most other Democrats on Capitol Hill – frequently invoked Norquist. In late 2011, the bipartisan 12-member debt-reduction group known as the “supercommittee” ultimately failed in its quest to strike a grand bargain on the debt, and as the negotiations deteriorated, Kerry and the other five Democrats on the panel increasingly sought to cast the blame on Norquist and his anti-tax pledge.

As he made his case for the State Department on Wednesday, Kerry told students and faculty at U-Va. that “deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow; we need to remember that.”

He also touched on the notion of American exceptionalism – a theme frequently raised by GOP candidates on the campaign trail in 2010 and 2012.

“America is not exceptional simply because we say we are,” Kerry said. “We are exceptional because we do exceptional things, both where there are problems and where there is progress.”