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Kerry Talks Issues With Students

Says, ‘We Need You More Than Ever’

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Sen. John Kerry, chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke to students in a class taught by Chancellor Marty Meehan.

By Sandra Seitz

Decrying the gridlock and ideological divide in Congress, Sen. John Kerry told students, “We’re going to need you more than ever in the next days and months to get our priorities straight.”

Kerry was a guest speaker in a class taught by Chancellor Marty Meehan. The political science course is an advanced study of representation, campaigns and elections, and the functioning of the American national Congress within the political system. It is co-taught by Patricia Sullivan Talty.

“This is not some adult food fight you can hold at arm’s length and think, ‘These guys suck. I’m glad I have my life,’ ” Kerry said. “It affects you.”

The country has needs in higher education, in energy, in infrastructure investments and long-term economic strategies, he told students. 

With a short history lesson, Kerry described the situation after World War II, when America “was the only economy left standing. We were able to win without making good decisions, or being competitive,” he said, adding that the 1990s saw an explosion of economic activity, building on high-tech development, that generated 25 million new jobs and a period of balanced budgets in government.

But the United States today does not have a single company among the top 10 solar producers, in a global energy market Kerry said is worth $6 trillion. 

“We’re living off investments made by past generations,” said Kerry, arguing that the government must have the latitude to make investments, even while addressing the long-term deficit. 

As a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), revenue at the federal level is at a 60-year low, while spending is at a 60-year high. Kerry thinks markets will respond positively as long as expenditures and revenue can be brought onto parallel lines.

“We have to get revenues back to a fair level,” he said.

Kerry was taking students’ questions when he was interrupted by having to take a phone call – a reminder that, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he is involved in international affairs of state and may be named secretary of state if President Obama wins a second term.

“I am proud of the values we in the United States espouse,” said Kerry on his return, in response to a question on the possibilities for peace in the world. Having spoken the day before with the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan, both “on the brink” of renewed war, he said, “It takes time to work through the conflicts of tribalism. I am more aware of how fundamental tribalism is to decision-making in many parts of the world,” building up centuries of habit and practice.

“Our ways of doing things seem abrupt and disruptive to those patterns,” he said.

Urging the students to study social structures, psychology and religions to better understand other points of view, Kerry added, “In my view, peace is going to require us to help other countries over this hurdle of confrontation with modernity … to help them to embrace modernity without fear.”

Brian Dano, a junior management major and president of the Student Government Association, was impressed with Kerry’s answers to student questions.

“I felt it was an honor to be in the same room as a former presidential candidate. I find that in Marty Meehan's class, the guest speakers are top notch, both extremely knowledgeable and experienced,” says Dano. Check out a photo gallery from the day's event.