After 28 years in Congress, John Kerry is saying goodbye.
The Massachusetts Democrat gave a lengthy farewell speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, warning that political infighting could tarnish America’s reputation abroad.
Kerry was easily confirmed with a 94-3 vote to take Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State post on Tuesday.
“As I prepare to represent our nation in capitals around the world, I’m conscious that my credibility as a diplomat, and ours as a country, is determined to a great degree by what happens in our own capital city,” he said in the nearly one-hour long speech. “We can be no stronger abroad than we are at home.”
Kerry added if Congress decides to “posture politically in Washington, we weaken our position across the world. If democracy deadlocks here, we raise doubts about democracy everywhere.”
He did insist that he didn’t believe the Senate is broken. “What is wrong with the Senate can be fixed what is right with the Senate,” said Kerry, adding he was “deeply impressed” by a new generation of lawmakers.
The 69-year-old lawmaker touched on his failed 2004 presidential bid, insisting the experience taught him about humility.
“Eight years ago, I admit that I had a very different plan, slightly different anyway, to leave the Senate, but 61 million Americans voted that they wanted me to stay here with you,” he said to laughs. “Staying here, I learned about humility and I learned that sometimes the greatest lesson in life comes not from victory but from dusting yourself off after a defeat and starting over when you get knocked down.”
At one point Kerry choked up when acknowledging the desk in front of him once belonged to the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy and former President John. F. Kennedy.
“I can’t help but be reminded that even our nation’s greatest leaders and all the rest of us are merely temporary workers. I’m remind that this chamber is a living museum, a lasting memorial to the miracle of the American experiment.,” he said.
His speech comes as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick appointed his former chief of staff, William “Mo” Cowan as the new interim senator. There will be a special election in to determine a permanent replacement on June 25.
Kerry will be officially sworn in as secretary of state on Friday, which is also Clinton’s last day.