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Profile of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts

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Profile of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts:

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984, and reelected in 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008. In 2012, Kerry is the 10th most senior U.S. senator, and chairs the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 2004, Sen. Kerry was the Democratic presidential nominee, but lost to incumbent President George W. Bush.

Sen. Kerry is a liberal Democrat who champions environmental and climate change causes, civil rights, and nuclear disarmament. Although he's generally anti-war, Sen. Kerry voted in 2003 to allow the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a vote he later regarded as a mistake.

John Kerry and the Vietnam War:

At his 1966 Yale graduation, Kerry delivered a speech criticizing U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War. Kerry enlisted in the Naval Reserves, and commenced Officer Training School in August 1966. From 1967 to 1970, Kerry did several tours of war duty in Vietnam. For heroism and leadership, he was awarded three Purple Hearts, Bronze Star and Silver Star.

Kerry, deeply disillusioned by the Vietnam War, joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War in protests, which included throwing away his medals. Kerry testified to Congress in 1971, famously asking "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

Senate Committees in the 112th Congress, 2011-2012:

In the 112th Congress, Sen. Kerry is a member of the Senate:
  • Foreign Relations Committee (Chair)
  • Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee
  • Finance Committee
  • Finance Subcommittee on Health
  • Finance Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, Infrastructure
  • Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
  • Commerce Subcommittee on Science and Space
  • Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, Coast Guard
  • Commerce Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, Export Promotion
  • Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
See U.S. Senate Committee Chairs in 112th Congress for a complete listing.

Sen. Kerry's Record:

John Kerry has a solidly liberal voting record, and is rated:
  • 100% pro-union by AFL-CIO
  • 100% pro-choice by NARAL
  • 100% pro-affirmative-action by NAACP
  • 100% pro-gay-rights by Human Rights Council
  • 100% pro-public education by NEA
  • 100% on support for energy independence by CAF
  • 100% pro-public health by APHA
  • 100% pro-senior by Alliance for Retired Americans
  • Rated F by NRA, meaning Kerry has a pro-gun control voting record
In 2005, Sen. Kerry delivered an impassioned, important speech on the plight of and government failures for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Personal Data:

  • Birth - December 11, 1942 in Aurora, Colorado, the second of four children born to Richard Kerry, Army Air Corps member and later a U.S. diplomat, and wife Rosemary, a member of the wealthy Forbes family. John's great-great-grandfather was Robert Charles Winthrop, the 22nd Speaker of the U.S. House.
  • Education - BA, political science, 1966, Yale University. JD, 1976, Boston College Law School
  • Family - Married to second wife, heiress Teresa Heinz, since 1995. Two adult daughters: Vanessa (b. 1976) and Alexandra (b. 1973).
  • Faith - Roman Catholic
  • Interests - Cycling, wind-surfing, hunting

Sen. John Kerry on the Issues:

On Climate Change and Energy Security

"Global climate change and energy security are two of the greatest challenges facing the United States today. America's contributions to global climate change and our oil dependence are endangering our national security, our economy and our environment.

"But the global climate crisis is more than an urgent scientific imperative; it is also a tremendous economic opportunity to secure America’s leadership in creating the low-carbon global economy and our future prosperity.

"The crisis is growing. Carbon pollution threatens to damage our children’s health and radically and irreversibly alter our climate. It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, and human displacement on a staggering scale."

On the Defense of Marriage Act

"Last year we finally repealed the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that forced patriotic gay Americans to lie in order to serve their country. Yet, even amid this great progress, our journey remains incomplete today and that’s why I’m working with my colleagues to pursue policies that fight discrimination and make America a stronger, more fair country for all of its citizens.

"This year I’m going to fight in the Senate to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage act, a law that turns legally married same-sex couples into second-class citizens and denies them thousands of federal benefits. This law was unconstitutional and wrong when I voted against it fifteen years ago, and it’s unconstitutional and wrong today."

On the Importance of Public Education

"Our country depends on a strong public education system. Education is vital to our democracy, and it strengthens our economic competitiveness by making sure we’re prepared for the jobs of the future. Above all else, education is at the core of our country’s basic promise - that everyone should have the chance to make the most of their potential, no matter where they were born or who their parents are...

"... I’m going to fight here in the Senate to put great teachers in every classroom, hold every child to high standards, and ensure that every school has the resources and the responsibility to meet those standards. In the end, every young person should graduate from high school, and everyone who works hard and wants to go to college should be able to afford it."

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