Secretary of State John Kerry, in his first major public address since joining President Obama's Cabinet, delivered a clarion call for continued American engagement on the global stage, telling an audience at the University of Virginia that in today's interconnected world, "There is nothing foreign about foreign policy."
"Our lives as Americans are more intertwined than ever before with the lives of people in parts of the world that we've never visited," Kerry said. "For all that we have gained in the 21st century, we have lost the luxury of just looking inward. Instead, we look out and we see a new field of competitors."
But despite the rising tide of competition, Kerry noted, "The State Department does not have our own Grover Norquist" to protect the needs of diplomacy in budget negotiations, referring to the powerful anti-tax advocate.
And we cannot simply wish away this new reality, Kerry warned: "No politician, no matter how powerful, can put this genie back in the bottle."
Instead, he argued, we must adapt, and we must prioritize our foreign engagement as never before.
"As a recovering politician, I can tell you that nothing gets a crowd clapping faster in a lot of places than saying, 'I'm going to Washington to get them to stop spending all of that money over there'," Kerry said. "If you're looking for an applause line, it's about as guaranteed an applause line as you can get. But guess what? It does nothing to guarantee our security. It doesn't guarantee a stronger country. ...It doesn't guarantee that another young American man or woman won't go and lose their life because we weren't willing to make the right investments here in the first place."
"We need to say 'no' to the politics of the lowest common denominator," Kerry said, "and start making real choices that protect the interests of our country."
Despite the ongoing wrangling over fiscal policy, Kerry argued, "There is nothing in this current budget fight that forces us to make bad decisions."
"Deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow," he said. "We need to remember that. ...Foreign assistance is not a giveaway. It's not charity. It is an investment"