- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Secretary of State on Hotspots, Diplomacy, and Determination

| Fall/Winter 2015-2016

Belfer Center Director Graham Allison opened his October 13 conversation with Secretary of State John Kerry by praising him as a “celebrated diplomat” and “decorated warrior” and for “bringing home the Iran nuclear deal.”

If he had to describe Secretary Kerry in one word, Allison said, it would be “perseverance,” a trait Kerry demonstrated during acts of bravery and “derring-do” during the Vietnam War and on many other occasions, including his recent success in Iran. Allison said that George Washington’s observation, that “perseverance and spirit can do wondrous things in all ages,” applies directly to Kerry.

Acknowledging Allison’s introduction, Kerry joked to the students, “I don’t advise derring-do as a guidepost for foreign policy.”

In thanking Allison for inviting him to speak at Harvard, Secretary Kerry added another note of gratitude to him and to Belfer Center Senior Fellow Wendy Sherman, attended the event.

“First of all, I want to thank Graham Allison, who has guided lots of members of Congress for years and years and whose judgment on all matters nuclear is impeccable. And his analysis of the Iran deal really played an important role in our ability to win votes from a very critical audience.”

Also, Kerry said, “I want you all to join me in saying thank you and honoring the service of the spectacular WendySherman, who worked day-to-day on Iran for a couple years with me and others…I’m really happy that she is here at Harvard and you all will get the benefit of her wisdom.”

During a back-and-forth with Allison and questions from Harvard faculty members and students, Kerry made a number of key points:


On implementing the Iran nuclear deal

"I’m very optimistic about the implementation because people forget we have lived for two years now with the interim agreement in which they rolled back their stockpile and rolled back their enrichment and reduced the number of centrifuges and so forth. People aren’t aware of that."

On violence in Sudan

"…[W]e’re very much front and center right now in trying to see if we can get something moving and change this cycle of violence that has consumed the youngest nation on the planet and consumed an old one too, I might add, at the same time."

On the South China Sea

"We will fly and we will sail and we will operate in any place where international law and custom and use allows us to…. And that means that we will not be intimidated within the South China Sea from our normal assertion of right of navigation under the normal course of business."

On Russia in Syria

"If Russia were to legitimately commit that it wants to [defeat] ISIL and not preserve the Assad regime, then there’s a chance we really could take on ISIL and save Syria and provide the political solution, which is the only legitimate outcome for Syria."


» For the video and transcript of the event, see belfercenter.org/ConversationWithKerry

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Wilke, Sharon. Secretary of State on Hotspots, Diplomacy, and Determination.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Fall/Winter 2015-2016).

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