Vanessa Kerry ’95 Encourages Student Involvement in Politics

After speaking to millions of viewers at the Democratic National Convention and the MTV Video Music Awards, Vanessa Kerry ’95, daughter of Democratic Presidential Nominee John Kerry, spoke to an audience of 1,200 at Phillips Academy, discussing her experiences with her father’s campaign. Ms. Kerry’s message was centered on a lesson she learned from her two years of involvement in one of the most heated elections in history: young people of America can make a difference in the political process. “Your future is on the line, and whatever your political affiliations, be involved, and you can affect a change.” She continued, “I took the risk to be part of something incredible and I fought for something I believed in.” However, she said that she is “always under scrutiny” and has had to learn a lot about politics. She regaled students with humorous anecdotes about gradually learning the sign language associated with power politics. In response to an audience question about the influence of youth on the outcome of the election, Ms. Kerry cited the 1960 and the 1992 election, in which young people turned out in great numbers and therefore made a great impact in the election. “It matters enormously that you get involved because you can change it; the energy, the activism, the idealism of our generation… it’s incredible. Young people can absolutely change the face of the election. If you see the numbers on Election Day, I fully believe we’ll be responsible for changing our leadership,” she said. When asked why she got involved in her father’s campaign, she said, “Everything I cared about was at stake in this election and I had a unique opportunity that I had to take.” Ms. Kerry took time off from attending medical school at Harvard to campaign for her father. “My job is to be a surrogate… pass his policies as well as show him in the light of a dad,” she said. However, this position in the media spotlight has not prevented her from carrying her own opinions. She expressed disagreement with her father’s stance on gay marriage, as she supports equal recognition for all wanting to be wed. Ms. Kerry opted not to share her own opinion about whether or not the war in Iraq was justified, quickly transitioning to Senator Kerry’s plans for the country still entangled in war. “The one thing I can tell you in my heart of hearts is he is so committed to bringing our troops home safely,” she said. As the daughter of the candidate, Ms. Kerry was able to speak frankly about John Kerry as a father like any other, embarrassing his daughter by donning a bright orange hunting hat and cheering for her at sports games at Andover. “Having grown up with him, I learned that he is a man of unbelievable integrity, unbelievable optimism and someone who has truly said to me ‘Vanessa, I hope you fight everyday to make someone else’s life better,’” she said. She named integrity as the most convincing reason why an undecided voter should vote the Democratic ticket this coming Tuesday. “The concept of integrity means telling the truth to the American people, fighting for the American people and that means believing that this is a great country and everyone who is a part of it is bigger than you, greater that you, and that’s who we have to fight for,” she said. She continued, “For the last 27 years I have had a father who has held one rule always: always tell the truth, and always do your best, and always be a person of integrity, and that’s exactly who my father is.” Beyond obvious familial relations, Ms. Kerry has made her own name for herself, graduating from Yale Suma Cum Laude and continuing on to Harvard Medical School, where she became a Fulbright Scholar studying health planning.