- By Robbie GramerRobbie Gramer is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. He writes for The Cable, FP’s real-time take on all things, well, foreign policy. Before he joined FP in 2016, he used to think in a tank, managing the NATO portfolio at the Atlantic Council for three years. He’s a graduate of American University’s School of International Service, where he studied international relations and European affairs. He has lived in both Washington and Brussels, though he grew up in Idaho and Oregon, so he’s a West Coaster at heart. When he’s not busy reporting, he’s probably busy starting three new books before he has finished the last one or planning a trip to a national park he hasn’t visited yet., Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry largely held his tongue on Donald Trump’s raucous and controversial presidency — until now. In a commencement speech Wednesday before Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Kerry slammed Trump and the noxious political environment in Washington in which politicians and former politicians slam each other.
“I did not come here to be partisan or political or pessimistic. But I did come here to tell the truth,” he said, before launching into a partisan, political, and somewhat pessimistic tirade.
He told a few jokes at the Trump administration’s expense — jesting that Harvard Kennedy School graduates could take any of the thousands of empty jobs in the Trump administration, and the best way to get ahead in Trump’s Washington was to brush up on all things Russia.
“I’m often asked what is the secret to having real impact on government,” he said. “Well, it’s recently changed. I used to say, either run for office or get a degree from Harvard Kennedy School. With this White House I’d say, buy Rosetta Stone and learn Russian.”
And he took a swipe at the toxic and faction-riddled political environment in the country today.
“It’s not normal that when you close your eyes and listen to the news, too often the political back and forth in America sounds too much like it does in the kinds of countries that the State Department warns Americans not to travel to,” he said.
Then he veered back toward what could have been pages from his own stump speeches in his 2004 run for the White House.
“We need people with the courage and guts to stand up and tell the truth and put forward better choices, not lowest common denominator choices calculated to win votes,” he said.
He outlined some of the choices: Finding a way to alleviate Americans’ widespread economic anxiety, because few know economic anxiety like Harvard Kennedy grads; reminding graduates new technology is cold comfort to those who lost their jobs to it; remaining committed to combating climate change; and keeping the United States as a leading force in the world. Because the world’s just a little bit nervous about Trump right now.
“My travels to Asia, to the Middle East, to Europe … have informed me the global community is watching and unsettled about the leading nation in the free world,” he said.
Kerry, who made fighting climate change one his big priorities both in the Senate and in the State Department, spoke at length about the severity of the climate threat, warning of the dangers of pulling out of the landmark Paris climate change agreement.
“It would be a self inflicted wound that would hurt our own businesses, diminish our leadership, and set back our own future,” he said. Instead, he urged graduates to “bet on science, bet on reality.”
“Class of 2017,” Kerry closed, “your job is to disturb the universe.” Because the universe apparently hasn’t already been disturbed quite enough lately.
Photo credit: Zach Gibson/Getty Images