Kerry Offers View of U.S. Role in More Interconnected World

John Kerry told U.S. senators that “America lives up to her values when we give voice to the voiceless.”

John Kerry told U.S. senators that “America lives up to her values when we give voice to the voiceless.”

January 24, 2013

The United States needs to assert a new role in the world to meet the challenge of a young generation seeking greater opportunities and their right to participate as individuals in their governance, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his nomination hearing to be the next U.S. secretary of state.

Kerry, who was nominated by President Obama to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, said that if he is confirmed by a majority vote in the U.S. Senate, he will be “determined to help President Obama meet this moment,” adding, “It is vital for our nation that we do so” at the January 24 hearing.

The senator has been chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee for the past six years and has served on the committee since his first election to the Senate in 1984. Kerry is a decorated Vietnam War veteran and was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.

In his remarks, he said U.S. foreign policy is not defined only by its military force, but also by critical issues such as food and energy security and humanitarian assistance, and by U.S. efforts to fight disease and promote economic development around the world.

“It is defined by leadership on life-threatening issues like climate change or fighting to lift up millions of lives by promoting freedom and democracy from Africa to the Americas, or speaking out for the prisoners of gulags in North Korea or millions of refugees and displaced persons or victims of human trafficking,” he said.

The world has grown increasingly complicated and interconnected, where “economic, health, environmental and demographic issues, proliferation, poverty, pandemic disease, refugees,” violent conflicts and the demands of new technology and modernity are “inextricably linked,” he said.

Kerry said it is imperative that the United States assert “a new role in a world of increasing failed and failing states” where “burgeoning populations of young people, hungry for jobs, opportunity, individual rights and freedom, are rebelling against years of disenfranchisement and humiliation.”

If confirmed as the next U.S. secretary of state, Kerry said, he will continue to raise human rights concerns with global leaders and push for greater religious tolerance, gender and ethnic equality, and respect for diversity and pluralism, along with the need to end corruption.

“America lives up to her values when we give voice to the voiceless,” he said.

He also said he would be a “passionate advocate” with U.S. lawmakers on the need to address global climate change, arguing that its solution lies in making changes to existing energy policy and taking advantage of the economic benefits businesses can gain by developing clean energy technology and energy efficiency.

Kerry also said the current U.S. fiscal crisis is a “first priority” that needs to be solved, saying the United States cannot be strong in the world unless it is strong at home.

“More than ever, foreign policy is economic policy. The world is competing for resources and global markets,” he said. At a time when the marketplace has become the most globalized in history, the U.S. economy depends on its relationship with every other country in the world.

The U.S. private sector is open, accountable and creative, and “people like to do business with American businesses,” he said.

At the hearing, Kerry’s colleagues paid tribute to the many years he devoted to foreign affairs as a U.S. senator.

“You have already built strong relationships with leaders around the world, which will help you seamlessly into the role of secretary of state,” said Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. “You will need no introduction to the world’s political and military leaders and will begin on Day One fully conversant not only with the intricacies of U.S. policy but with an understanding of the nuanced approach necessary to effectively interact on the multinational stage.”

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the highest-ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said there is “almost no one” who has spent as much time and effort as Kerry in developing foreign affairs expertise.

“I look at you in being nominated for this as someone who’s almost lived their entire life, if you will, for this moment of being able to serve in this capacity,” Corker said.

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