Saying Goodbye to State Employees, Kerry Says, ‘We Decided to Rock the Boat’

By Patrick Goodenough | January 19, 2017 | 11:52pm EST
Former U.S. Navy Lieut. John Kerry testifies during a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Vietnam War, on April 22, 1971. (AP Photo, File)

( – Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday he was optimistic about the future, telling State Department employees that the women’s, peace and environmental movements half a century ago had achieved change because people “went out and fought for it.”

“And I am absolutely confident now that people are prepared to fight for the future in the same way, with the same energy, with the same vision and the same commitment,” he said.

Kerry told employees gathered at the department that his generation “came along in the 1960s and we decided to rock the boat, and we did.”

Recalling the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the ending of the Vietnam War, Kerry said all of that happened “because people like you and others held on to the hope, believed in the possibilities of change, and went out and fought for it.”

Kerry said he was “actually very optimistic about the future.”

“I know some of you accuse me of having blind optimism. No, it’s not blind. But I am optimistic and I’m optimistic because this country has shown again and again how strong we are internally, how powerful we are, how incredibly resilient we are, and how we have the ability to redefine our story, to write the next chapter, to go on into a stronger and better place.”

Kerry did not refer directly to the incoming administration and the possibility it may adjust or reverse high-priority Obama administration accomplishments such as the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accord – initiatives which he played a key role in advancing.

But he defend those policies and achievements, among others, declaring it to be “a fact” that the Iran nuclear agreement has made the world and the region “safer than they were before.”

On the Paris climate deal, he said, “it is a fact that people in this world have hope today and believe there is a possibility of literally saving the planet because of what we were able to achieve … an agreement that put 186 nations on record saying we need to deal with climate change and deal with it now.”

Kerry went on to state as “fact” that the U.S.-led coalition has liberated key territory in Iraq from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL); that the U.S. and European response to Ebola “saved hundreds of thousands of lives”; that the U.S. “galvanized” Europe and together imposed sanctions against Russia, making clear the price for moving into Ukraine; and that U.S. leadership brought China onboard to tighten sanctions against North Korea over its provocative actions.

He conceded that sometimes things were not achieved, but rejected the notion that that amounted to failure.

“I know sometimes people say, well, you failed to get this done, failed to – I don’t see it that way,” he said. “We didn’t succeed it getting it finished, but we didn’t fail. You never fail when you try greatly to go out and make things happen.”

Kerry did not tell the State employees about his plans for after Friday, but he did say he was “excited about the next chapter. And I have a feeling we’re all going to continue to cross paths, continue to work, I know, for the same things.”

At Davos earlier this week Kerry had said that after he steps down on Friday, “given the issues that are on the table and the challenges we face globally, I intend to be extremely active and involved and continue to press in the same direction that we’ve been pressing in.”

He has spoken on several occasions recently about the need for a new “Marshall Plan”-type initiative, to help young people living in failing states where ISIS and another extremist groups have made inroads.

“Just as the Marshall Plan lifted this part of the world out of the ravages of war and helped to create the Europe we know today, together,” he said in Brussels last October, “we have to invest in developing communities where Daesh [ISIS] and similar groups have thrived – in the schools, in the health care facilities, in the civil society infrastructure, so that we can enable millions of young people to pursue their dreams and contribute to their communities in meaningful and productive ways.”


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