Time Abroad Shaped Kerry's Outlook

Roundup: Media's Take

Jill Lawrence and Barbara Slavin, in USA Today (July 27, 2004):

Kerry uses his resume to argue his case: two tours in Vietnam; nearly 20 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; six years on the Senate Intelligence Committee; leader of investigations into international bank fraud, narcotics trafficking and missing prisoners of war; author of a 1997 book, The New War, about global fraud, crime and terrorism.

The book was published at a time when international drug trafficking and ethnic mafias were the world's worst crime problems. Al-Qaeda is not even in the index. But Kerry's analysis of the global financial networks and tools that support "transnational" criminal enterprises seems prescient, as does Chapter 6, titled "The Globalization of Terror."

"It will take only one mega-terrorist event in any of the great cities of the world to change the world in a single day," Kerry wrote.

Associates say Kerry saw early on that many problems transcend political borders. "He recognized that you cannot protect yourself from many threats without the cooperation of people far away," says Jonathan Winer, Kerry's former counsel.

Kerry's parents, who both died in the past few years, influenced him so much that he dedicated The New War to them. "They taught me to look beyond our shores and in all directions," he wrote.

Richard Kerry, a foreign service officer and NATO specialist stationed in Berlin, Oslo and Washington, wrote a 1990 book lamenting America's black-and-white sense of the world. He said U.S. values and institutions are not necessarily suited to all countries. Star-Spangled Mirror was reissued this month with a new subtitle: A Father's Legacy Shapes John Kerry's Worldview.

Kerry's mother, Rosemary Forbes of the prominent Boston Forbes family, was one of 11 children. Their father, an international banker, split his time between England and France in the 1920s and 1930s. Kerry often describes how his mother's relatives, now "scattered to the winds," were trapped in Europe during World War II.

His mother "was taking care of wounded and refugees in Paris right up until the last day that the Germans came in," Kerry told USA TODAY in an interview. She "foraged across France," rode a bicycle to Portugal and made her way by ship to a sister in the USA.

Kerry says one of his first memories, at age 3 or 4, is walking with his mother through the rubble and broken glass of what had been his grandfather's summer home in Brittany, France. He says he played in German bunkers as a child and saw firsthand "the ravages of war."

At 11, he was sent to boarding school in Switzerland. At 12, he commuted alone by train from Berlin through Soviet-controlled East Germany. "Just seeing Russian soldiers and seeing the foreboding East vs. West distinctions had a profound impact on me," he told USA TODAY. At 16, Kerry took a ferry from Norway to England and bicycled there all summer.

Living in Europe led Kerry to adopt his father's view that North America and Europe "needed to stay bound together culturally, politically and spiritually," says historian Douglas Brinkley, author of Tour of Duty, about Kerry's Vietnam service.

Later, Kerry joined the Navy and commanded a small boat that plied the Mekong Delta to smoke out the enemy. Though he had political ambitions before going to Vietnam, his experiences there crystallized his determination to set policy rather than be a victim of it. "They were the defining moment that drove him to public service," says Wade Sanders, a San Diego attorney who, like Kerry, was a swift boat captain. "He saw the need to make a difference and not let something like this happen again."

Today, Kerry speaks fluent French, decent Spanish and smatterings of Latin, Italian, German and Vietnamese. He has relatives in France and England.

His wife, Teresa, was born in Mozambique, speaks five languages and once worked as an interpreter. His older sister, Peggy, works at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. His younger sister, Diana, spent 25 years overseas, most of them teaching art, drama and English in Tehran, Iran; Paris; Bangkok; and Jakarta, Indonesia. Now she's recruiting Americans abroad to vote absentee for Kerry.

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