Wednesday during a commencement speech at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, former Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the presidency of the Donald Trump as “not normal” several times, and added, “In the end, there is nothing American about it either.”
Partial transcript as follows:
Distinct from the hurly burly of any presidential visit, my travel to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East these past few months has informed me that the global community is watching and unsettled about the leading nation in the free world.They see us gridlocked and politically trapped in a low-intensity internal conflict of our own. They see us unilaterally disarming in the battle of values. They see us walking away from a century of thoughtful, carefully conceived economic and strategic leadership. They see volatility and unpredictability that causes confusion. They see a budget proposal that eviscerates diplomacy and reduces America’s engagement, which has traditionally defined our leadership in the world.
And in this last year, our discourse, if you can dare to call it that, rose to a new level of the outrageous, coarse, and ugly. The public dialogue has become no dialogue at all. It is a shouting match that alienates citizens who disparately yearn for more from their leaders. We seem trapped in a political pinball machine where we careen from flipper to flipper, bouncing off walls of insults and contradictions, outright lies and broken promises, where up is down, and words don’t mean anything anymore.
Democracy relies on free speech. Yes, say anything you want. But it relies more on the speech being truthful. It is truth, after all, that sets us free. And the truth is no, this is not a normal time. It’s not normal to see a president of the United States decrying so-called judges. 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. No, there is nothing normal about this moment, my friends. And in the end, there is nothing American about it either.
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