IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Senator Kerry's most important Senate appearance was in 1971

The next chapter in Sen. John Kerry's story began Thursday during his confirmation hearings for his nomination to be Secretary of State.

The next chapter in Sen. John Kerry's story began Thursday during his confirmation hearings for his nomination to be Secretary of State. msnbc's Lawrence O'Donnell took a look back at John Kerry's place in history when he testified on Capitol Hill before a panel nearly 40 years ago as a Vietnam War veteran and protester.

In his opening statement on Thursday, Kerry reminded himself of his own journey that began in 1971 when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971 and spoke about his  experience in war and as the leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

“Nearly 42 years ago, Chairman Fulbright first gave me the opportunity to testify before this committee during a difficult and divided time for our country,” Kerry said. “Today I can’t help but recognize that the world itself then was in many ways simpler, divided as it was along bi-polar, Cold War antagonism. Today’s world is more complicated than anything we have experienced.”

Speaking to the complex challenges the country is now facing, Kerry remained humble about the first time he set foot on Capitol Hill. "I’ll tell you, Mr. Chairman, when I first came to Washington to testify it was as a member of group who came to have their voices heard. That is what this place is all about.” Kerry was a former navy lieutenant in Vietnam, was wounded three times and awarded the silver star for heroism.

His well-received testimony received a standing ovation from peace demonstrators in the gallery; his speech also resonated with President Richard Nixon who ended the draft a year later.

O'Donnell praised Kerry as the ultimate war hero, saving countless of lives with his powerful testimony against the war.

"More than 2,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam after John Kerry's testimony. That number was going to be higher, much higher. 5,000? 10,000? We'll never know, but it was going to be higher if John Kerry hadn't become the most "extremely effective" war protester in American history. The only war protester who the war President, Richard Nixon, thought was, in his words, 'extremely effective.'"

O'Donnell thanked Kerry for his most valuable contribution to the country and the world.

"There are men who are alive today in this country thanks to John Kerry. I have brothers who I believe are alive today, thanks to John Kerry. Some of you have brothers, fathers, uncles, who are alive today because of John Kerry. John Kerry didn't play it safe when he testified against the war. He personally attacked by name President Johnson's Defense Secretary--along with the other Democrats in the Johnson Administration who were the architects of that war... the so-called best and the brightest who failed the country and the world so miserably. On April 22, 1971, at the age of 27, John Kerry assured his position in American history, and that position is war hero...the most valuable kind of war hero, the hero who helps end the war."