The major concern of New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman about America is that “we have a President without shame, backed by a party without a spine, backed by a network without integrity,” he said to a crowd of 350 people in a School of Management auditorium while in conversation with former Secretary of State John Kerry ’66 on Monday.
Kerry sat down with Friedman to discuss the state of democracy in the United States and abroad. The two talked about the Trump administration, global issues like the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Deal and other current affairs. Throughout the discussion, Kerry also talked about his memoir, “Every Day is Extra.”
Kerry’s book tells the story of his life — from fighting in and then protesting the Vietnam War to working as the secretary of state under former President Barack Obama. The talk was part of the programming for the Kerry Initiative at the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs.
“The most relevant geopolitical divide today is not capitalist and communist or east and west,” Friedman said. “[It] is between the world of control and chaos, the world of order and disorder.”
Friedman explained that today smaller states are less stable due to the rise of China, globalization and the breakdown of liberal institutions. He said that people in undemocratic, unstable countries will always search for more order to their life.
Kerry added that he has been thinking about what a modern version of the Marshall Plan to aid these countries could look like. The Marshall Plan was developed by former Secretary of State George Marshall to help revitalize Europe after World War Two.
Kerry then moved on to discussing the current political situation in the U.S.
Kerry said that throughout his life, there have been periods of massive change in the country. He recalled tumultuous geopolitical events that occurred during his time at Yale — such as the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when Kerry was a first-year student, as well as the assassination of former President John Kennedy in 1963 and the implementation of Operation Rolling Thunder under former President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.
Kerry added that even if current affairs in America seem dire, the country has been through difficult times before and that he remains hopeful that the U.S. will persevere. Although Kerry said that he was concerned about citizens’ willingness to participate in the political system and vote, he maintained that the country’s institutions are still strong.
Throughout the talk, Friedman made several attempts to gauge Kerry’s presidential aspirations, but Kerry remained silent on a potential run.
In a lighter moment of the discussion, Friedman also asked Kerry what favorite color cup at Mory’s, the New Haven eatery famous among Yalies that offers different colored cups for different flavors of alcoholic drinks. His answer — green.
Kerry gave his closing remarks on the life of his good friend and longtime Senate colleague John McCain, who passed away due to brain cancer in August. Both Kerry and McCain served in the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. While McCain was captured and became a prisoner of war, Kerry returned to the U.S. and protested the fighting. Kerry used their friendship as an example of what positive bipartisanship could look like. He spoke of a time when the two were standing in McCain’s cell in Vietnam when they were both U.S. senators.
“If a protester and a [prisoner of war] can come together in Hanoi and understand the importance of common ground, we can do it from anywhere in this country … everything depends on it,” he said.
John Brockmeier ’22 said he enjoyed listening to Kerry’s and Friedman’s talk. He added that learning about Kerry’s “interpretations of the current world order” in dialogue with a seasoned journalist “was fantastic.”
Skakel McCooey | firstname.lastname@example.org