John Kerry is a war hero and one of the most recognizable politicians in the U.S., having served his country in multiple positions on both the state and federal levels. In January 2020, Kerry was sworn in as the nation's first special presidential envoy for climate and the first-ever principal to sit on the National Security Council entirely dedicated to climate change. Prior to joining the Biden Administration, Kerry served as the country's 68th Secretary of State from 2013 to 2017. Considered by many to be America's top diplomat, Kerry guided the Department’s strategy on nuclear nonproliferation, combating radical extremism, and the threat of climate change.
His tenure was marked by the successful negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Agreement. Previously, he served for more than 25 years as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Shortly after graduating from Yale University, Kerry volunteered for service in the U.S. Navy, where he completed two tours of duty in Vietnam for which he received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts. Afterwards, he began a lifelong fight for his fellow veterans as a co-founder of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
When Kerry arrived at Yale University in 1962, he already showed the signs of a great leader. Besides the responsibility of a difficult academic schedule, Kerry was a busy young man on campus. At Yale he was a three-sport athlete, president of the Yale Political Union, and a member of the infamous Skull and Bones society. To many of his classmates in New Haven, it almost seemed like he was being groomed for political greatness. Indeed, under the guidance of speaking coach and history professor Rollin G. Osterweis, Kerry won many debates against other college students from across the nation. Overall, however, he did have lackluster grades, graduating with a cumulative average of 76 over his four years in New Haven. And he never received an "A" at Yale. Still, in 1966 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, already looking toward the conflict in Vietnam.
In 2017, Kerry returned to his alma mater to help train the next generation of leaders to cope with future conflicts. As a sign of respect for his many historic accomplishments, Yale tapped the former statesman and U.S. senator to join its Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, making him the very first Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs. In the years since, Kerry's initiative on Yale's campus has been comprised of three components — a seminar on global diplomacy open to students across Yale, the Kerry Fellows program, and “Kerry Conversation” events, which are public events where Kerry has been known to bring some of his famous friends such as Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Condoleezza Rice.
Forever a Yalie, even as his new role in Washington commands most of his attention, Kerry will remain in touch with his namesake Yale initiative, both directly — visiting with Kerry Fellows, for example — and through his former chief of staff, David Wade, who will now lead key elements of the initiative.