Who exactly is John F. Kerry?

By Hollie Russon Gilman

I am not professing to truly know the Senator, but I think I do have some ideas. He is a man who was raised with a sense of chivalry, as a Bostonian gentleman. He was taught not to attack until provoked. He was taught a sense of class and obedience. In short, he is the antithesis of a certain Texas cowboy. Kerry’s father worked in the Foreign Service under President Eisenhower, and Kerry therefore had ingrained in him a sense of Cold War hysteria juxtaposed with global internationalism. He was a boy who had a strong sense of morality and acted upon it, volunteering to fight in Vietnam. But what interests me most about Kerry is not the time he spent in Vietnam but rather his response after he got back. He arrived in Vietnam in 1968, a watershed year for the war and this country. At a time when our college campuses were overflowing with protests, he was fighting on the other side of the world. But, having been there, he came home and did the right thing. I do not think I can ever imagine the effects of war; the way war feels, or smells or sounds. I cannot imagine killing one of the enemy only to find evidence in his clothes of his wife and children. OK, so my views of warfare are largely grounded in The Iliad and All Quiet on the Western Front. But Kerry’s are not.

John Kerry came home and became the youngest person to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He asked the now famous question which would haunt a generation: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” And if the presidential race of 2004 is indicative of one thing, it is that Vietnam still haunts us.

Will our country ever heal from the deep split between those who support this war and those who believe it is a horrendous mistake?

Kerry knew that his decisions regarding Vietnam would always stir debate and intrigue, but he did what he thought he had to do. Kerry is a moral person. President Bush just plays one on T.V. Kerry believes governing should be as separate from politics as possible. Bush genuinely believes he is doing the right thing, and refuses to let sound judgment and pragmatic reason stop him. However, what does the typical American voter really know about John Kerry? With the election only days away, people are looking for ways to make Kerry a plausible candidate. People have been praising Kerry’s debating skills; he always was a skilled debater. I have not been impressed. Maybe because in person Kerry is just so charming and charismatic. Maybe because I go from moments of reason to moments of outrage at the devices and desires of the current administration. Who is this John F. Kerry? He is not a new style, third-way Democrat. He is a return to classic FDR, JFK, LBJ liberalism. Contrast this with that fact hat he is trapped in the most conservative period of the past forty years. And because of this, he is also a candidate in the most important election of the past forty years. On November 2 it will become evident if the American people know enough about John Kerry. If they do, they will make him the 44th president of the United States of America.