Washington — Secretary of State John Kerry has vowed to do the hard work necessary "to keep the promise of our democracy" for the next generation of Americans and for the rest of the world.
After taking the ceremonial oath of office in Washington February 6, Kerry said as secretary of state, he will support democracy in "quiet corners of the globe" as well as in tumultuous places such as Tahrir Square in Cairo and South Sudan.
He said his experience in war has given him an understanding of the human costs of failed diplomacy and the cost of conflict.
"But I make clear today to those listening, while my preference is for a peaceful resolution to conflict, my journey has also taught me that when remedies are exhausted, we must be prepared to defend our cause and do what is necessary to stand up to extremism, terrorism, chaos and evil, and we will continue to do so," Kerry said.
Kerry, a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, invited several soldiers who fought with him in Vietnam to attend his swearing-in.
Kerry said the State Department has a broad range of diplomatic actions it can take to reduce conditions that lead to war. As examples, he cited the U.S. program to fight HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa, that has saved the lives of millions of people, and helping young girls to pursue their dreams of education in Afghanistan and other places.
As he starts his new job, Kerry said, the world is undergoing big changes brought on by new technologies, unprecedented growth in the numbers of young people, sectarian strife and religious extremism. "These forces threaten to unravel whole nation-states and create greater pockets of instability than we have seen in recent times," Kerry said. "All of us need to do better at inviting people to embrace the values that have always inspired us."
Speaking to young foreign service officers at the State Department on February 7, Kerry said in countries including Egypt and Syria, about 50 percent of the population is under the age of 21.
"If they don't have jobs, and they don't have an education and they don't see much of a future, and the governance of their country is suppressing their aspirations in a world where they can tweet and Facebook and connect to everybody else, you're going to get what you got in Tahrir Square, and you're going to see more energy released that way," he said.
He added that the United States has a responsibility for world leadership despite its budgetary constraints.