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Diplomacy in Action

Walk and Talk Interview With Elise Labott of CNN

John Kerry
Secretary of State
St. Briac, France
June 7, 2014


MS. LABOTT: This quaint, usually quiet French village is preparing to receive the American Secretary of State. And while he calls the U.S. home, today, John Kerry is being welcomed as a local.

SECRETARY KERRY: My grandfather, who was an American businessman but working abroad, discovered this coast and the simplicity and beauty of this part of the world, so in 1922 or ’23, somewhere around there, he started coming here. And he bought a house. He had 11 children. My mother’s one of 11 children.

QUESTION: Eleven children. Wow.

MS. LABOTT: After the war, Kerry’s mother took her four-year-old son back to her childhood home, which had been destroyed by the Nazis. He says it’s one of his earliest memories.

SECRETARY KERRY: She walked through the house that had been destroyed, and I remember the glass, broken glass crunching under my feet, and I saw a chimney going up in the sky and I saw stairs, and that was it. That was the whole house.

QUESTION: That was the burned-out home.

SECRETARY KERRY: And it was very upsetting to my mother. But we – my grandfather decided to rebuild and it became a place where the whole family has kind of through the years come and gathered, and it’s a very close family as a result.

MS. LABOTT: The residents of Saint Briac saved the family’s belongings and helped them start anew. And John Kerry is back to thank them. It was America’s 83rd Infantry Division which liberated the village from the Nazis. Kerry paid tribute at a monument for the three fallen U.S. soldiers.

QUESTION: This war took a real toll on your family. I mean, you recently discovered in the last several years that you have Jewish roots, that some of your family members were killed in the Holocaust, the Nazis burned down your family home. I mean, this war was not kind to your family.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it underscores – believe me, it deeply underscores the meaning of war.

MS. LABOTT: A son of two nations sharing a common history. Elise Labott, CNN, Saint Briac, France.

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