John Forbes Kerry (born December 11, 1943) is an American diplomat and Democratic Party politician who is the 68th and current United States Secretary of State. He previously served in the United States Senate, where he chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Kerry was the Democratic nominee the 2004 presidential election, losing narrowly to Republican incumbent George W. Bush.
Kerry was born in Aurora, Colorado and attended boarding school in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. He graduated from Yale University in 1966 with a major in political science. Kerry enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1966, and between 1968 and 1969, he served an abbreviated four-month tour of duty in South Vietnam as officer-in-charge (OIC) of a Swift Boat. For that service, he was awarded combat medals that include the Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal, and three Purple Heart Medals. Securing an early return to the United States, Kerry joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War organization in which he served as a nationally recognized spokesman and as an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. He appeared in the Fulbright Hearings before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs where he deemed United States war policy in Vietnam to be the cause of war crimes.
After receiving his J.D. from Boston College Law School, Kerry worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Massachusetts. He served as Lieutenant Governor under Michael Dukakis from 1983 to 1985 and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984 and was sworn in the following January. On the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he led a series of hearings from 1987 to 1989 which were a precursor to the Iran–Contra affair. Kerry was re-elected to additional terms in 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008. In 2002, Kerry voted to authorize the President "to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein," but warned that the administration should exhaust its diplomatic avenues before launching war.
In his 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry criticized George W. Bush for the Iraq War. He and his running mate, North Carolina Senator John Edwards, lost the election, finishing 35 electoral votes behind Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Kerry returned to the Senate, becoming Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in 2007 and then of the Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. In January 2013, Kerry was nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then confirmed by the U.S. Senate, assuming the office on February 1, 2013.