Longtime Massachusetts Senator John Kerry on Wednesday bid an emotional farewell to his Senate colleagues, whom he is leaving after nearly 30 years.
Just a day ago, Kerry received overwhelming support from the Senate, who approved him 94-3 as the next secretary of state. Kerry said he will always be grateful for the senators' friendship. He later joked in his speech that the people of Massachusetts voted him to the Senate five times, yet those he worked with "voted me out of it."
But it is not the last time that Kerry will be seeing his fellow lawmakers. The next time they meet, Kerry will be the chief of American diplomacy and will be working with his old friends to advance U.S. interests abroad. However, he also called upon senators to avoid gridlock and work bipartisanly to fix issues at home.
"As I prepare to represent our nation in capitals around the world, I’m conscious that my credibility as a diplomat -- and ours as a country -- is determined to a great degree by what happens in our own capital city,’’ Kerry said.
The outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman warned that if the upper house favors "inaction over courage and gimmicks over common ground," then America "will fall behind, we will stay behind.
“The world keeps turning. The Senate can’t afford to stand still."
Nevada Sen. Harry Reid's office issued a statement earlier Wednesday, saying Kerry will be missed by his colleagues.
"Senator Kerry said at his confirmation hearing that the Senate is in his blood, and that is true," the majority leader and fellow Democrat said. "As he represents America’s interests around the world, his experience in this chamber will serve him and this country well."
That Kerry will be taking on the nation’s top diplomatic role isn’t a shock to any. Some would even say Kerry was born for it. Kerry's father was a diplomat, and his mother was a nurse during World War II.
After graduating from prestigious Yale University, Kerry volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy, because he felt “it was the right thing to do.” Kerry’s career would take him on two tours in Vietnam, leaving as a decorated veteran. He was decorated with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V and three Purple Hearts.
The time spent at war would forever shape Kerry’s politics, as he has fought to improve the lives of veterans across the nation. Along with other veterans, he founded Vietnam Veterans of America, advocating for benefits and for facilitating higher education.
After graduating the Boston College Law School in 1976, Kerry was a prosecutor working on organized crime, also fighting for victims’ rights, and created counseling programs for rape victims.
As secretary of state, he will have a much bigger budget to work with -- about $50 billion to be precise -- and lead a team of some 50,000 American and foreign employees, close to 300 embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions and posts worldwide.