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John Kerry Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s a look at the life of former Secretary of State John Kerry.


Birth date: December 11, 1943

Birth place: Aurora, Colorado

Birth name: John Forbes Kerry

Father: Richard Kerry, a Foreign Service officer

Mother: Rosemary (Forbes) Kerry

Marriages: Teresa Heinz (1995-present); Julia Thorne (1970-1988, divorced)

Children: with Julia Thorne: Vanessa, 1976 and Alexandra, 1973

Education: Yale University, B.A., 1966; Boston College, J.D., 1976

Military Service: US Navy, 1966-1970, Lieutenant

Religion: Roman Catholic

Other Facts

Grew up overseas, having lived in Berlin before going to a Swiss boarding school at age 11.

After his return from Vietnam, he became a leader of the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Kerry holds the record for the most miles of travel by a US secretary of state, having traveled more than 1.4 million miles when he left office in January 2017.

Appeared in a cameo role on NBC’s “Cheers.” His last name is spelled incorrectly on the 1992 episode’s end credits, as “John Kerrey.”


1966-1969 – Serves in the Navy in Vietnam as a gunboat officer on the Mekong Delta. Kerry is awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.

1971 – Speaks to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and makes headlines at a Washington, DC protest by disposing of his medals on the Capitol lawn. Later admits the medals belonged to someone else.

1972 – Runs unsuccessfully for Congress, Massachusetts’ 5th District.

1976 Is admitted to the Massachusetts State Bar.

1976-1979 – District attorney of Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

1979-1982Partner in the law firm Kerry & Sragow in Boston.

1982-1984 – Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts under Michael Dukakis.

1984 – Is elected as a Democrat to the US Senate for Massachusetts.

1990 – Wins a second term in the US Senate.

1996 – Reelected to the Senate.

November 5, 2002 – Is reelected to a fourth Senate term. He runs unopposed and is the first Massachusetts senator in 80 years with no major party opposition.

February 12, 2003 – Has surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on his prostate gland. Kerry’s doctors announce the cancer had not spread and he will not have to have radiation treatments. He is released February 15.

September 2, 2003 – Formally announces his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president. In Kerry’s announcement speech, he says President George W. Bush is taking America “in the wrong direction.”

March 11, 2004 – CNN reports Kerry has received the exact number of Democratic delegates to assure his nomination as the candidate for president.

July 6, 2004 – Kerry names Senator John Edwards (D-NC) as his vice presidential running mate.

November 2, 2004 – Bush is reelected with 62,040,606 votes to Kerry’s 59,028,109. Kerry receives 252 Electoral College votes, and Bush gets 292.

November 3, 2004 – Calls Bush to concede the White House race.

November 1, 2006 – Apologizes after saying college students need to study hard or else they will “get stuck in Iraq.”

January 24, 2007 – Announces he will not be running for president in the 2008 election and will run for a fifth Senate term instead.

January 10, 2008 – Endorses Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race, not former running mate Edwards.

November 4, 2008 – Wins a fifth term in the US Senate.

2009-2013Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

June 4, 2009 – The IRS files a $820,000 lien against Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign over payroll taxes.

August 2009Has hip surgery to address chronic pain.

August 2011 – Kerry is selected as one of 12 members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, created to work out $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction after an initial round of more than $900 billion in spending cuts.

December 21, 2012 – Is nominated to be secretary of state by President Obama.

January 29, 2013 – Kerry is confirmed as the next secretary of state by the US Senate; the vote is 94-3.

February 1, 2013 – Is sworn in as the 68th secretary of state.

May 31, 2015 – Breaks his femur while riding his bike in Scionzier, France. Kerry is flown to a nearby hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, for examination.

June 2, 2015 – After returning to the United States early for treatment of his leg injury, Kerry participates via phone in talks with European and Middle Eastern allies about ISIS. During the summit, Kerry declares the terrorist network is “no more a state than I am a helicopter.”

June 12, 2015 – Kerry is discharged from the hospital after undergoing surgery. Leaning on crutches, he greets the media and ensures reporters that nuclear talks with Iran will proceed as scheduled.

July 14, 2015 – The nuclear deal with Iran is finalized after numerous deadline extensions. Discussing the deal in Vienna, where the peace talks took place, Kerry says the agreement was long in the works because the United States and its allies made tough demands. “Believe me, had we been willing to settle for a lesser deal, we would have finished this negotiation a long time ago,” Kerry tells the media at a news conference.

July 18, 2015 – During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Kerry declares that he has no interest in launching a 2016 presidential campaign. “Zero. Absolutely none whatsoever,” Kerry says.

August 14, 2015 – Kerry visits Havana, Cuba, to raise the flag above the US embassy as it reopens for the first time in 54 years.

April 11, 2016 – Kerry becomes the first sitting US secretary of state to visit the Hiroshima memorial in Japan. Hiroshima was devastated when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city in August 1945.

December 10, 2016 – French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault presents Kerry with the insignia of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor at a ceremony in Paris.

January 20, 2017 – Leaves office.

March 1, 2017 – The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace announces that Kerry will be joining them as a visiting distinguished statesman.

August 2017 – Serves as co-leader of the Carter Center’s mission of observers in Kenyan elections.

October 4, 2017 – Is named chairman of the Bank of America Global Advisory Council.

September 4, 2018 – His memoir, “Every Day Is Extra,” is published.

December 1, 2019 – Launches World War Zero, a bipartisan initiative of world leaders and celebrities to combat the climate crisis.

December 5, 2019 – Kerry endorses Joe Biden for president in the 2020 race, saying the former vice president has the character and leadership skills to beat President Donald Trump.

November 23, 2020 – President-elect Biden appoints Kerry as his special presidential envoy for climate. Kerry will be a Cabinet-level official and will sit on the National Security Council (NSC), marking “the first time that the NSC will include an official dedicated to climate change,” according the Biden transition team.

November 9, 2022 – Kerry announces a new, controversial plan to raise cash for climate action in the developing world. The plan has already attracted criticism due to the way it will be financed, with money raised in sales of carbon credits, which allow companies to pay for someone else to cut their planet-warming emissions, instead of cutting their own.

November 18, 2022 – The State Department says Kerry has tested positive for Covid-19 at the United Nations’ COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, but is “working with his negotiations team and foreign counterparts by phone to ensure a successful outcome of COP27.”

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