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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks for the Massachusetts State House Marking the 90th Anniversary of the Foreign Service


Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 23, 2014

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Good afternoon, everybody.  I very much wish I could be there with you today in our historic state house where I had the pleasure of spending some time, and there for the moment of honoring our commonwealth’s very proud connection to the American Foreign Service. 
 
Ninety years ago this month, a congressman from Lowell had a special idea.  John Jacob Rogers knew that the State Department needed a class of professionals who could work overseas, telling America’s story to the world.  He knew that they would need to be a diverse group, able to speak to all America and to all the world about what America had to offer.  And he knew it would need to be a system grounded in the same commitment to public service that had brought Rogers from New England to Washington.  In 1924, that dream became a reality when the Rogers Act was signed into law and the modern Foreign Service was born.
 
All of you know Massachusetts’ history in American diplomacy dates back to the very beginning of our history.  Indeed, half of the signatories on the Treaty of Paris were native born sons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  William Palfrey, America’s first consular diplomat, was a war hero from Boston.  And the president who signed the Rogers Act into law was a Massachusetts man himself, Calvin Coolidge.
 
Today, the Foreign Service has sent 31,000 American men and women to countries across the globe.  One of them was my own dad, who served as a Foreign Service Officer in Europe.  There he was able to show his then-young son the power of American diplomacy.  I will never forget our visit to the beaches of Normandy where American soldiers helped to liberate Europe during World War II, and that extraordinary moment of D-Day as they liberated France.  Or my time as a 12-year-old riding my bike through Berlin shortly after the war and watching the rebuilding of postwar Europe with the help of the Marshall Plan.  Many years later, it’s the personal honor of a lifetime to continue my father’s legacy and follow in the footsteps of our state’s other Secretaries of State—men like John Quincy Adams, Richard Olney, and Daniel Webster.
 
Our forefathers created Massachusetts as an example to the world—as a city on a hill for all to look up to.  It was here in Massachusetts that the ideals of democracy, personal freedom, and global engagement absolutely became part of the American DNA. It only makes sense then that some of our nation’s greatest advocates abroad have called the Bay State home.
 
Thank you for the privilege of joining you for a celebration of the Foreign Service, but also a celebration of the great history of our Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Thanks.
 
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