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John Kerry: A Familiar Face in Global Diplomacy

President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Sen. John Kerry as he announces his nomination of Kerry as the next secretary of state, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, December 21, 2012.
U.S. Senator John Kerry - President Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of state - is a familiar face to world leaders, an elder statesman of the Democratic Party and current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The son of a military veteran, Kerry graduated from Yale University in 1966 and served an abbreviated tour of duty in Vietnam, where he was awarded two combat medals and three Purple Hearts, which are awarded to those who are wounded in combat. Shortly after returning home, he became a nationally recognized anti-war spokesman, and in 1971 famously asked a congressional committee on the Vietnam war, "How do you ask the last man to die for a mistake?"

A Massachusetts Democrat, Kerry was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1982 and has earned a reputation as a left-center lawmaker who backs free trade, environmental protection and an expansive U.S. foreign policy.

He won the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, spending much of his campaign criticizing his incumbent opponent, George W. Bush, for his administration's handling of the Iraq war. While initially voting to support the 2003 Iraq invasion, he later voted against $87 billion in aid for the country, saying Bush misused the trust of the American people and diminished U.S. standing across the world. Kerry lost the election by a 2-percent margin.

If confirmed, Kerry would succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and take over a department under intense public scrutiny for failing to provide effective security in September at a diplomatic compound in Libya.

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomatic personnel were killed on September 11 in Benghazi when terrorists overran the facility.