Former Secretary of State John Kerry blasted the Trump administration during a commencement speech Wednesday at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, advising graduates to learn to speak Russian in light of collusion allegations.
“I’m often asked what the secret is … to having a real impact on government,” Mr. Kerry told the crowd.
“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,” he joked, earning cheers.
The remark comes as the administration faces unsubstantiated claims that Trump associates colluded with the Russians in attempting to influence the 2016 election. President Trump has blasted the allegations as “fake news.”
Mr. Kerry claimed “this is not a normal time” for America, and said he refuses to put on a “contrived mantle of bipartisanship” that alleges both parties are to blame for what’s going wrong in the country.
“It’s not normal to see a president of the United States decrying ‘so-called judges,’” he said, in remarks first flagged by Politico. “It’s not normal for the leader of the country that invented the First Amendment to routinely degrade and even threaten journalists. And no, it’s not normal to see the head of the FBI fired summarily because he was investigating connections between Russia and the presidential campaign of the very man who fired him.
“And 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 added. “No, there is nothing normal about this moment, my friends. And in the end, there is nothing American about it either.”
The former secretary of state praised Mr. Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia Sunday that called on Muslim nations around to globe to “drive out” Islamic extremists, but argued that education and jobs are the big-picture answer to combating terrorism.
“What we need is not a Marshall Plan for the 20th century, what we need is a new plan for the 21st century,” Mr. Kerry said. “A plan that is focused on, not bypassing, developing countries.”
“Surely we can begin to prevent tomorrow’s extremism by offering young people the promise of modernity and good governance, not the destruction of strapping on a suicide vest and blowing yourself up and a whole bunch of innocent people,” he said, referencing Monday’s terrorist attack in Manchester that killed 22 people.
At the conclusion of his speech, Mr. Kerry urged graduates to fight for democracy in America and abroad.
“In the end, it depends on people, it depends on leaders, it depends on building trust and organizing around a set of principles that are acceptable to a majority. And you, you have to build that majority,” he said. “Class of 2017, it’s your responsibility to disturb the universe and make our world right, right now.”
He received a sustained standing ovation.