Former Secretary of State John Kerry sat down with Evan Smith to kick off opening night of the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas tonight.
After thanking the sponsors and introducing Kerry to the stage, Evan Smith discussed reading Kerry’s book and claimed that he thought everybody already knew Kerry’s story and wondered why Kerry chose to write a book.
“Because I thought it was important to tell the truth,” Kerry responded.
“Is the truth not being told about you?” Smith asked.
“You know, I think it’s inevitable — I’ve been in public life since I’ve been back from Vietnam, and I protested the war — This is the first time I’ve written main events that made a difference. I’ve never publicly about Vietnam, from start to finish, about that period of time. — This book is a journey. It’s an American journey which I happen to believe is particularly relevant in this moment in time when our country is in trouble and our democracy is in trouble and we need to understand why there are reasons to be optimistic and how we can, in fact, change things for the better,” Kerry stated.
After discussing events Kerry went through in 1964/64 and the decisions everyone faced in those times, Smith asked, “Mr. Secretary, the thing about democracy being challenged — you call out specifically — I read this entire book thinking, why did you write this book? Then I get to the end of the book and you literally say, ‘why did I write this book?’ And the answer is: Our democracy is challenged. That’s what you wrote. — I believe that our country can withstand and survive anything.”
“Let me share, if I can, with everybody… I’m a huge believer. I believe in our country. I love our country. I volunteered to go into the service back in '65 because I believed in the adage that if much is given to you, much is expected from you. My Dad was one of the early volunteers for the army air corp; He was a cadet right out of law school and went into the service. My Mother, who was born in Paris, who was American from Boston, she just happened to be born in Paris, learned how to be a nurse very quickly as the war came on and she was working in Paris taking care of wounded refugees and others and heard that the Germans were coming in tomorrow and she literally got on a bicycle with her sister and her sister’s new husband and they foraged their way across France to Portugal which she made it onto a boat and came to American and married my Father. So, I’ve had war and the impact of war in my veins for a very long period of time and that sense of service was important. — So, long story short, I look at our country today and I know that patriotism can come from many different places. It’s not a blind affection that allows you to look over the imperfections of your country. It’s a sense of responsibility about what makes America what we are and who we are.”
“The argument, Mr. Secretary is that by acknowledging the imperfections of our system and our country is that we’re being more patriotic and not less,” Smith interjected, “That’s the debate we’re having right now. The whole, ‘take a knee,’ discussion is in some ways tied to this idea that there’s only one version of patriotism that is acceptable.”
“That’s always been a battle. Look at the history of a lot of countries that have had trouble of holding on to their democracy and you will find demagogues that exploit for the cheap seats for power and we have seen some of that. It doesn’t take our nation where we need to go. I heard you in the introduction talking about, ‘the external picture and internal picture.’ We have to do both! We have no latitude anymore. I will tell all of you here, politely, that there is a way forward. It’s very clear. It’s the only way. — We tried every form of government that there is. Monarchies. Dictators. Communism. Socialism… You name it, we’ve had it and as Winston Churchill said, ‘Democracy is the worst form of Government in the world except for everything else.’ So, then you have to stop and say, ‘well what’s the matter with us?’ What’s the matter with us is that what happened in 2016 is completely understandable. I think most of us are all angry because Washington is completely dysfunctional.”
Kerry then mentioned today’s earlier Kavanaugh hearings and how he thinks it is ridiculous that there was an accuser who said that someone else was in the room when an assault happened, and congress won’t call that witness to testify, saying, “Everybody sees that the fix is in. The fix is probably going to be in on this. People know that the fix is in on taxes, the fix is in on health care, the fix is in on jobs, so when you look at America, here’s the big problem: There is far, far, too much money in American politics. — Also, we cannot even have a legitimate democratic general election in the United States because of gerrymandering. We have other things, but we cannot agree on what the facts are, but you know how we do it? You do it. We do it. And I’m not kidding you, my book traces this journey that began when I went to Vietnam and I found out that we were not being told the truth about this war… When I came back from Vietnam, the first thing that I did was not protest the war, but I became involved in Earth Day. We organized America to come out of their homes who cared about their environment… and we knew we had to translate the issues we cared about into voting issues. And we did.”
Kerry then mentioned the low voter turnout in the 2016 election and the importance of making it to the polls and getting anyone you can find involved and getting as many others as you can signed up to vote.
You can get John Kerry’s book, Every Day is Extra, here.