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Secretary of State John Kerry

To Serve in President Barack Obama's Cabinet

By

U.S. Sen. John Kerry

U.S. Sen. John Kerry was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as secretary of state during his second term.

Andrew Burton/Getty Images News

U.S. Sen. John Kerry was nominated in December 2012 to be secretary of state by President Barack Obama. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Jan. 28, 2013, and replaced Hillary Clinton, a former senator and first lady who served in the post during Obama's first term in the White House.

About the Secretary of State

The secretary of state is the highest-ranking cabinet position in the White House. The secretary serves as the nation's top diplomat, assists the president in all matters of foreign policy and serves as the liaison between the United States and other countries.

About John Kerry

Kerry was first elected as a senator from Massachusetts in 1984, and was serving his fifth six-year term when he was nominated for secretary of state. He is a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for president against Republican President George W. Bush in 2004. He chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry served in the U.S. Navy and completed two tours of duty in Vietnam, including an assignment on a Swift Boat. He earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts. His service on the Swift Board later became the subject of some of the most negative political attacks in the 2004 election.

Obama Nomination of Kerry

Obama nominated Kerry for secretary of state on Dec. 21, 2012, near the end of his first term in the White House. The president said he chose Kerry for the important cabinet position because of his family's background in serving overseas, the senator's own military background and his broad knowledge of the issues.

"In a sense, John’s entire life has prepared him for this role," Obama said at a White House announcement. "As the son of a Foreign Service officer, he has a deep respect for the men and women of the State Department - the role they play in advancing our interests and values, the risks that they undertake and the sacrifices that they make along with their families.

"Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power. And he knows, from personal experience, that when we send our troops into harm’s way, we must give them the sound strategy, a clear mission, and the resources that they need to get the job done," Obama continued.

Kerry apparently was Obama's second choice of secretary of state, however. Shortly after Clinton announced she would not return to the cabinet in Obama's second term, U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice was considered a front-runner for the position. But she withdrew from consideration after a short time in the face of staunch Republican opposition.

Reaction from Republicans

Obama's choice of Kerry elicited support from both Democrats and Republicans, largely because of his length of service in Washington and experience in foreign policy. Several key Republicans in the Senate, including John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, praised Kerry after being sharply critical of Rice.

The U.S. Senate vote confirming Kerry was overwhelming in his favor, 94 to 3.

Political Impact of Nomination

Kerry's nomination as secretary of state meant that he had to vacate his seat in the Senate. His departure allowed an opening for Republicans to pick up a seat; former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown was said to be a likely contender for the seat.

Top Democrats including Obama said they would make the special election a priority, and vowed to help the eventual Democratic nominee win Kerry's seat in the Senate. The election takes place in 2013.

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