“I Have Big Heels to Fill”
“So here’s the big question before the country and the world and the State Department after the last eight years: Can a man actually run the State Department? (Laughter) I don’t know. (Applause) As the saying goes, I have big heels to fill. (Laughter)”
He then presents a poignant historical account of his childhood memories as a diplomat’s son in Berlin:
“I was back in Boston two weeks ago and I was rummaging through some old stuff and I found the first evidence of my connection to this great diplomatic enterprise – my first diplomatic passport. (Applause.) There it is. Number 2927 – there weren’t a lot of people then. (Laughter.) And if you open it up, there’s a picture of a little 11-year-old John Kerry and no, you will not get to see it. (Laughter.) And then in the description it says, “Height: 4-foot-3.” (Laughter.) “Hair: Brown.” So as you can see, the only thing that’s changed is the height. (Laughter.)
And the first stamp in it, the first arrival, was 1954 in Le Havre. And back then the State Department, we went over – we spent six days at sea on the S.S. America and the State Department and the United States Government sent us over, the entire family, first class. Don’t get any ideas. (Laughter.) Anyway, I – we went to Berlin, and this was not too long after the war, and I used to ride my bicycle around Berlin, it was my pastime, my passion, and rode everywhere, the Grunewald, around the lakes, up and down the Kurfurstendamm, the church where the steeple burned down, past the Reichstag, burned out, past Brandenburg Gate, past Hitler’s tomb with these amazing, huge concrete slabs blown up. And I just roamed around. It was stunning how little control there was.”
And one day – in my sense of 12-year-old adventure, I think it was then – I used this very passport to pass through into the East Sector, the Russian sector, and I bicycled around, and I’ll tell you, as a 12-year-old kid, I really did notice the starkness, the desolation. In fact, I was thinking about it the other day. If the tabloids today knew I had done that, I can see the headlines that say, “Kerry’s Early Communist Connections,” something like that. (Laughter.) That’s the world we live in, folks.
But I would reassure them by saying I really noticed the difference between the east and west. There were very few people. They were dressed in dark clothing. They kind of held their heads down. I noticed all this. There was no joy in those streets. And when I came back, I felt this remarkable sense of relief and a great lesson about the virtue of freedom and the virtue of the principles and ideals that we live by and that drive us.”
He then makes the case for the virtues of working for the State Department:
“We get to do great things here. This is a remarkable place. And I’m here today to ask you, on behalf of the country, I need your help. President Obama needs your help, to help us to do everything we can to strengthen our nation and to carry those ideals out into the world.
Here, we can do the best of things that you can do in government. That’s what excites me. We get to try to make our nation safer. We get to try to make peace in the world, a world where there is far too much conflict and far too much killing. There are alternatives. We get to lift people out of poverty. We get to try to cure disease. We get to try to empower people with human rights. We get to speak to those who have no voice. We get to talk about empowering people through our ideals, and through those ideals hopefully they can change their lives. That’s what’s happening in the world today. We get to live the ideals of our nation and in doing so I think we can make our country stronger and we can actually make the world more peaceful…. That’s as good as it gets. And I’m proud to be part of it with you. So now let’s get to work.”
Not a bad start.