“Jefferson believed we couldn’t be a strong country without investing in the kind of education that empowers us to be good citizens,” Kerry said. “That’s why founding this university is among the few accomplishments that Jefferson listed on his epitaph that he wrote for himself. To him, this place and its goal was a bigger part of his legacy than serving as Secretary of State or even as President, neither of which made the cut.”
Jefferson founded UVA in 1819, 10 years after he finished serving as the nation’s third president.
“I came here purposefully to underscore that in today’s global world, there is no longer anything foreign about foreign policy,” Kerry said regarding why he gave his first speech domestically instead of overseas. “More than ever before, the decisions that we make from the safety of our shores don’t just ripple outward; they also create a current right here in America”
Kerry voiced that globalization cannot be stopped and expressed the need to tame the worst impulses of globalization even while harnessing its ability to spread information and possibility.
“For all that we have gained in the 21st century, we have lost the luxury of just looking inward,” Kerry said. “Instead, we look out and we see a new field of competitors. I think it gives us much reason to hope. But it also gives us many more rivals determined to create jobs and opportunities for their own people, a voracious marketplace that sometimes forgets morality and values.”
At one point, Kerry mentioned how a poll of Americans revealed that many believed the country’s international affairs budget consumed 25 percent of the national budget and that it should be paired back to 10 percent. The State Department actually expends only 1 percent of the national budget.
“A wise investment in foreign policy can yield for a nation the same return that education does for a student,” Kerry said. “And no investment that we make that is as small as this investment puts forward such a sizeable benefit for ourselves and for our fellow citizens of the world.”
Kerry went on to underscore the benefits that come from engaging international markets. He asserted that businesses who sell more overseas hire more employees at home. He claimed that international trade supports more than a million jobs in Virginia and told the story of the Orbital Sciences Corporation, a company near Dulles that beat out French and Russian competitors to build Thailand’s newest broadcast satellite.
“But let me emphasize: Jobs and trade are not the whole story, and nor should they be,” Kerry said. “The good work of the State Department, of USAID, is measured not only in the value of the dollar, but it’s also measured in our deepest values. We value security and stability in other parts of the world, knowing that failed states are among our greatest security threats, and new partners are our greatest assets.”
Near the end of his speech, Kerry expressed that he will do his part of help the US continue to lead as an indispensable nation.
“When tragedy and terror visit our neighbors around the globe, whether by the hand of man or by the hand of God, many nations give of themselves to help,” Kerry said. “But only one is expected to.”
The full transcript of Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech is available at the Department of State’s website.