ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the United States Naval Academy Jan. 10 to address approximately 400 midshipmen in Mitscher Hall.
Kerry reminisced about his own service in the U.S. Navy, and the lessons he learned during that time and during his public service since.
Kerry enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1966 and served in the Vietnam War.
"My earliest memories were probably a mixture of some of the things you all felt when you came here -- a little bit of excitement or maybe a lot of excitement, a certain amount of exertion, a fair amount of fear," said Kerry. "But I look back on all of it fondly, as I'm sure I hope you do at this point, and I know you will ultimately."
The brand of leadership taught at USNA is absolutely defining of the heart of America and our strength in the world today, said Kerry.
Kerry mentioned he has served with many USNA graduates and referred to the institution as "one of the great assets of this country."
Kerry said many of the lessons he learned while in the Navy were "deeply personal" and influenced the way he operated during his public service. Being an officer and leader of a ship was a "shaping and formative" experience that taught him how to be a leader, he said.
"As officers of our sea services, you are often direct extensions of our foreign policy writ large," said Kerry. "And from practically the moment you leave the confines of this campus, you're going to deploy and train with forces from around the world, and you will interact directly with our diplomatic corps."
Kerry said the world is in a very complicated place, but he offered an uplifting quote from President John F. Kennedy's speech to midshipmen in August 1963.
"'Any man who may be asked what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: I served in the United States Navy,'" Kerry said. "I couldn't agree more, because that declaration is a sign of the courage and the character and the commitment and the patriotism of anyone who is afforded the privilege of attending this great institution. And I know looking around this hall at all of you that that tradition of service and the honor of that calling remains very much in the best of hands. So I thank you for your service and your sacrifice even now."
Vice Adm. Frank Pandolfe, a 1980 USNA graduate and assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was also in attendance. Kerry specifically recognized Pandolfe, who serves as military liaison between the Joint Chiefs and the State Department.
Following his remarks, Kerry engaged in a question-and-answer session with the midshipmen which covered an array of topics ranging from cybersecurity to climate change.
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