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February 19, 2013

Historic University, City, Prepare for Kerry Speech

by Carolyn Presutti

Newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will make his first public speech Wednesday in Charlottsville, Virginia at the University of Virginia, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson in the early 19th century.  Many in the small but internationally aware city are getting ready to greet the secretary of state.

This international dance group practices in the back of a local coffee shop - in a city that prides itself as being sophisticated and historic.
The dances are from countries like Russia or Turkey, nations a U.S. secretary of state might visit.
Sue Chase is with the Charlottesville International Folk Dancers.  She says they reach out to other countries through their dance.

“We choose to see that as a peaceful process, to enhance world peace and peace between countries and cultures," said Chase. "I can only say I hope John Kerry sees it [the world] that way too.”

Secretary Kerry will speak just down the road from C'ville Coffee, at the University of Virginia.

Maintenance workers at the university are straining to remove seats to make way for the TV cameras.

Those seats haven't been moved for nearly 20 years - but the university's history starts long before that. It was founded and designed in the early 1800's by the country's third president and writer of the Declaration of Independence.

And Thomas Jefferson's likeness is all over this university which now enrolls 21,000 students. Connor Smith is a first year student who plans to attend Kerry's speech.

“Just a cool experience to finally be eighteen and vote in my first election and kind of be more involved in politics and learning more about foreign policy," said Smith.

Kerry is expected to speak about what America gets in return when it invests in foreign policy.

Jeff Legro handles global issues at the university.

“What I think he wants to say is 'We do important things. Investing in what we do helps grow jobs here, it helps keep us out of trouble in situations in the future, that is little bit of prevention a little bit of good foreign policy ahead of time may prevent a problem that will engulf us later,'" said Legro.

The university's global student council met to talk about Wednesday's speech.  Some of them are in the ticket lottery to see it, like Paula-Anne Omiyi from Nigeria and Annabelle Larose from Germany.

"For the international committee it is a big sign because we feel like it will emphasize our voice," said Larose.

"I think it will definitely be very important to all of us, in light of our school work, in terms of writing papers and in applying what we have understood and learned from him," said a Nigerian student.

And that type of teaching from a live historical event will echo throughout these classrooms.