Remarks by Secretary of State Kerry at Youth Connect: Berlin

Berlin, Germany–(ENEWSPF)–26 February 2013.

MODERATOR: (In progress) – Berlin for a town hall meeting, the first show of Facebook TV here in Germany. This is John Kerry. He is here on stage. That’s what we promised you. He is. It feels good. Now, come on, let’s hear applause. (Applause.) Ladies and gentlemen, BASE_camp Berlin will thank Mark Zuckerberg and Gunnar Bender from Facebook for them to make this happen to make it possible to have John Kerry here for his first town hall meeting here in Germany. He is – thank you very much, and that’s your applause. (Applause.)

Summer and Fall at Prairie State College


MODERATOR: A long-time senator from the East Coast, now he is the Secretary of State. His first mission in his office is – brought him to Europe. He was stopping over in Great Britain. Now he is in Berlin, his most important stop ever, and he’s here to meet real Germans, real young Germans. He wants to learn, he wants to know, he wants to know what’s going on. He has some – so, please, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. Have a seat. And on this occasion, I would like to thank Facebook, I would like to thank Mark Zuckerberg, I would like to thank Gunnar Bender for making this possible here at BASE_camp Berlin, and I would like to thank the (inaudible), so we are here about to start our first town hall meeting.

So, Mr. Secretary, how do you feel?

SECRETARY KERRY: Sehr gut, danke. (Applause.) Alles gut. Deine schuhe sind fantastisch, ja? [Translation: Very good, thank you. (Applause). All is well. Your shoes are fantastic.]

MODERATOR: You speak very good German.

SECRETARY KERRY: Nein, nein, ich kann nur ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen. Aber ich würde sagen, es ist wunderbar, wieder hier in Berlin zu sein. Danke. (Applause). Und jetzt werde ich in Englisch sprechen, weil es ist easier. [Translation: No, no, I only speak a little German. But I would say it is wonderful to be back in Berlin. Thank you. (Applause.) And now I will continue in English because it is easier.] (Laughter.) Anyway, could you hear any of that introduction? I couldn’t hear a thing. He was talking away. (Laughter.)

MODERATOR: You want me to do it again?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, no, no. (Laughter.) Anyway, I was here. Can I say something?

MODERATOR: Yeah. (Laughter.) Well, let me think about it. Yeah, it’s Facebook. We are more casual. It’s family-style, so please, have your time.

SECRETARY KERRY: Work a deal, all right. Let me just say to everybody it’s really wonderful to be here. I was here as a young man, very young. I was 12 years old. And I used to ride my bicycle all up and down the Kurfurstendamm and around the Grunewald, and I used to sail in the Wannsee. So I got to know this city quite a bit. I lived in Dalheim. (Applause.) You live in Dalheim?

QUESTION: No, but I go to the university.

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, fantastic, all right.

QUESTION: The campus is —

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that was – when I was here, it was still not long after World War II and it was changing. And boy, what an amazing city you have built now. It’s an extraordinary city, and (in German). (Laughter.) It’s really amazing, and the transition – I was walking last night. I had a moment to go out for a walk and walk through the Brandenburg Gate, and then I went out along the trail and I saw the bricks in the road of the old separation and I walked through the Holocaust Memorial. And I’ve seen it before. I’ve been here before and I’ve seen it, but I had never had the experience of walking in it and going up and down and feeling the sense of disorientation, and it was really remarkable.

But I must say to you I credit your leaders, I credit your country with having had the vision and the courage to put that there to sort of remind people about a past that is the past and about the possibilities of the future. And when I think of President Reagan out here talking about the wall and President Kennedy who famously said, from my state, “Ich bin ein Berliner“, I think of the history. And you all are changing that now. That’s why I came here today to talk to you. Because my job is not just to talk to leaders of the world, but it’s to talk to you who are the future, and to talk to you about this journey we are all on together.

And what you’re doing now in Germany is so remarkable in terms of leading Europe and expressing a vision about where we can go together. Europe is strong and stronger together, and you’re the – when you put Europe together, you’re the largest economy in the world. And when you put Europe and the United States together, we have huge opportunity to create jobs, to build a stronger economy, and to build a future for each other. And in this day and age, every single problem is interconnected. There’s no “over there” and “over there” and everything; we’re all connected. And witness the computers that are here and Facebook and you can tweet and you can do any kind of communication. There’s – young people across the world today, I think, think of themselves not just as citizens of the country they belong to, so you’re not just German, but you think of yourselves as global citizens. And we need to think about how we’re going to pull each other together to solve really big, serious challenges.

Global climate change; I’ve been working on global climate change every year that I’ve been in the United States Senate, and I was there almost 30 years. I was in Rio 20 years ago when we created a framework convention, and we thought things would move forward. And I went to almost every meeting in between – Buenos Aires and Copenhagen and Kyoto and – you list them, and we’re still struggling. We haven’t got it right yet.

Now, this is a challenge of the planet because we need to reduce the levels of emissions if you believe in science, and I believe in science and I believe in the facts. And the facts tell us we need to be moving and responding, and you know that in Germany because you’ve been on the cutting edge of that. We also need to admit across the globe that the opportunities that people in other parts of the world want to touch as much as we do are not going to be decided by military. They’re going to be decided by creating new opportunities for people everywhere. And so we’re all connected to this and we have to be patient, we have to be strong, we have to recognize how we can find, sort of, common sense, unifying approaches to solve these kinds of problems.

The economies of Europe obviously are challenged right now. We understand that. And your challenge is our challenge too, because if you don’t do well, our economy feels it. You’re our biggest trading partner, and there are lots of investments from Europe in the United States and vice versa, and we buy from you and vice versa.

So the bottom line is, folks, we’re in this together, and I learned that a long time ago when I was here. I saw the divisions. When I was in Berlin, there was an American sector, a British sector, a French sector, and a Russian sector. And one day, I was very adventuresome because I had a diplomatic passport, so I rode my bike through the checkpoint and I went into the east sector, and I rode around.

MODERATOR: How old were you?

SECRETARY KERRY: And I was 12 years old. (Laughter.) And I saw – I really did see this, I remember it – as a 12-year-old, I saw the difference between the east and the west. I saw people were in darker clothing and there were fewer people in the street. There were fewer cars. There was a sense of – I didn’t feel the movement and the energy that existed elsewhere. And I – when I came home, I told my dad, and he got very upset with me and said, “You could have been an international incident, I could have lost my job,” ba, da, da. So I lost my passport – (laughter) – and I was grounded and I had never made another trip like that.

But I’ve never forgotten it, and now, it’s vanished, vanished. Now, so many other countries have followed with this spirit of giving life to people’s individual hopes and aspirations. And you look at – I think about Lech Walesa climbing over a fence and jumping into a demonstration, and from that one individual act, becoming the leader of the liberation of a country and the president of his country, and Vaclav Havel going to prison and putting his life on the line.

Aung San Suu Kyi. I visited Aung San Suu Kyi in her house in Myanmar, Burma 15 years ago, 20 years ago, and she stayed at it and stayed at it and stayed at it, and finally emerged to the respect and acclaim of people all around the world. Nelson Mandela. I stood in the cell on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years – 27 years. And when he came out, he didn’t hate, didn’t hate. He turned that energy into changing his country and standing up for freedom and for the future.

So today, let’s talk about that. I want to hear from you. I don’t want to just speak at you. And I hope we didn’t pick a coffeehouse today because it means that’s the only way you guys can stay awake. (Laughter.) I want to have a good conversation with you. I love that. The best thing we can do is talk with each other, share with me what you’re thinking, I’ll answer your questions, and let’s have a conversation about how Europe, the United States together can continue to work.

And I’ll just one say thing: The partnership that we have with Germany is extraordinary, and we’re very, very grateful for the leadership and the cooperation on very tough issues that don’t sit easily with everybody, like Afghanistan and other challenges that we face. But we’re working together. That’s the best way to get things done, and I look forward this morning to having a conversation with you about all those things.

So, let’s go. Let’s go. Who’s first? Anybody. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Secretary of State John Kerry, thank you very much. So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we would like to have your questions. We have three microphone runners here, so everybody who wants to ask a question, please just give us a sign. Tell us briefly who you are, how old you are, where you’re from, and your question, please.

Gentleman, you’re the first.

QUESTION: Thank you, yeah. Well, thank you, first of all, to come here and give us the chance to answer questions, and second of all, I like your tie. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: You can get it on the internet. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Great, cool.

SECRETARY KERRY: So it’s a place – it comes – it’s inspired by my state, Massachusetts.

QUESTION: Okay, cool.

SECRETARY KERRY: But the company is actually in Connecticut next door to me.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

SECRETARY KERRY: And I’ll tell everybody, it’s called (Laughter.) Go to —

QUESTION: (Laughter.) All right, okay.

MODERATOR: Thank you, you got the commercial break. (Applause and laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Commercial break, and I don’t have any stock in the company, so whatever.

MODERATOR: Your question?

QUESTION: Well, my name is Linus (ph). I’m 19 years old and I’m going to Catholic school here in Berlin, and I spent a year in America in New York, Buffalo.


QUESTION: And, well, my question is: What are your policies toward the conflict in the Middle East, like Israel and Palestine, since Palestine is now a observer state in the United – in the UN? Are you – like, what are you going to do about this? Are you, like, acting with them or —

SECRETARY KERRY: Our policy – yeah, no, thank you.


SECRETARY KERRY: It’s – our policy is very, very clear. President Obama is committed to two states – a state for the Palestinians, a homeland for the Palestinian people, a homeland for the Jewish people. That’s our policy. And I am already having meetings and beginning to talk to people. President Obama is going to Israel somewhere in the next month or so. And we’re not going to go to sort of plunk a plan down and tell everybody what they have to do. I want to consult, and the President wants to listen.

But we are deeply committed to trying to achieve peace in the Middle East, and they have to be as committed. All the parties need to be committed to that process. But I can promise you that the President is – it’s very much on his mind. He hopes to have really good consultations when he goes over there. It’s his first trip as President, and I look forward to going with him and having those meetings, and then we’ll sort of see how we can proceed. But rest assured, we do understand how critical it is.

And I must just say about what’s happening there now, we really hope everybody will step back a little and try to find a way to proceed very calmly and very thoughtfully in these next days, leave the opportunities for peaceful resolution open, and that’s important.

MODERATOR: Okay. (In German.) Gentleman over there, please introduce yourself. Bring this gentleman, yeah.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Zachariah (ph). I’m a medical student from Berlin. I’m 27 years old.


QUESTION: And my question is: In America, you have this feeling that you are an American. Everybody, whether he’s from outside or he’s born in America, feels like an American. In Germany, we’re still not there. So my question is: How can we Germans learn from you, from the America, to establish this feeling that we are Germans, a new “we”?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I – (applause) —

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m surprised to hear you say that, to be honest with you, because you have so much to be proud of and so much to unite around. Germany’s accomplishments and contributions to the global community in the last years really are extraordinary. I mean, if you think of a country that has overcome difficulties in the last 60 years, that’s brought itself together, unified east and west, that was not easy. That was tough. And you did it. It was the right thing to do and you made it happen, moved your capital. Used to be in Bonn, now here. Moved people, brought people together, and have become a powerhouse economically. Germany is extraordinary in that capacity.

You think of the engineering skills of Germany. It’s one of the reasons why I want to partner, and I think the President wants to partner, with respect to global climate change, because your technical engineering, innovative skills, which we see in so many different ways, can help us to design some of the alternative and renewable energy production capacity that we need in order to quickly, more rapidly transition from a fossil fuel base to a alternative energy-based world, and we all have to do this.

Now, in other ways, I know sometimes the heart and the gut need to have that feeling too, not just the head because of the statistics. But my sense is you’re on the road. It’s happening. I think that as the Europe issue resolves itself, you’ll probably feel more of that perhaps sense of unity because that’s been a project that people have been working on for 60 years now or more. And as that comes together, I think it – I hope it would help.

Honestly, I don’t want to claim – I’m not an expert, I can’t tell you – you have a federal system like we have, and you have all your states. I mean, look at the United States. We do feel uniquely American. But I can tell you – you can go to Texas and then you can go to California and you can go to Massachusetts or anywhere, you feel very distinct differences between the states. I’m sure you felt those. But the one unifying factor does become sort of American. I think as time goes by, as events unfold, you will find yourself much more identifying yourself in that way. That’s just my feeling.

But in the end, it’s going to come from you guys, not from us. You’re going to define it. And if you keep going down the road you’re going now, I think you’re on your way to doing it. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you. The next question, please. Yeah, the girl in the front, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you for coming here and answering our questions. When you came in, you talked about the trade partnership between Europe and the United States. However, like, as the economies in other continents are raising, like Asia, there – how is the direction of the United States? Because Asia started as a, well, different culture and now grew off to a really strong economical power during the recent decades. And how do you see the relation to Africa, for example? Because right now, the African continent is kind of exploited through mining and they’re trying to establish things, but, like, the gate as the Middle East – well, it’s kind of very conflict-full, and how do you see the perspective of the – well, partnership between the United States toward Asia, and where do you see Africa, for example, in 50 years?

SECRETARY KERRY: Okay, great questions. Those are really good. And they’re all kind of related, but let me begin with the question of Asia and Europe, because I want to make this very clear to everybody.

Last year and the year before, there were sort of questions in the minds of some people in Europe: Is the United States turning away from Europe, are we facing – more involved with Asia, et cetera. It used to – people called it the pivot, right? What I want to make clear to you is this: We are paying attention to Asia, and so are you, and so should you. But we’re not doing it at the expense of Europe, not at all. And in fact, President Obama’s announcement about the U.S.-EU Trade Agreement is evidence of the fact that we think Europe is critical to creating the kind of leverage, if you will, that comes from a larger market and from our working out the rules of behavior between us.

Now, one of the difficulties with the Asian marketplace has been that yeah, they’re engaged in capitalism and they’re pursuing pretty intensive market opportunities, but they’re not always playing by the same rules. So we find there are certain problems that we’ve had in market access, or certain problems that we’ve had in companies being able to buy in and get equal opportunity to be able to have contracts within their country, or – there are other kinds of problems. Cyberspace, we see certain things happening in cyberspace now that are worrying to some people. There are tariffs sometimes that prevent goods from moving, et cetera.

So what we need to do is keep working at getting a more level playing field, where we are playing by the same rules, and that’s a challenge with respect to some of the things that are happening with some countries in other parts of the world. One of the reasons that the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – TTIP, as people call it – is so important is that it will help us raise the standards of behavior of every other country, because we will be a stronger economic – a marketplace, a stronger marketplace, and that will have an impact on other people wanting to be able to access that marketplace, deal with those countries and those companies, and they’re going to have to raise their rules and raise their standards.

Now, for us, that means working out tough issues like regulations. There are differences of regulations on certain kinds of things. There are differences on agriculture policies, et cetera. We have to work through those. I’m confident we can. We have before. We worked through them. We worked together. But the reason this is important is that we want more of a relationship with countries than just the economics. And in China and in Africa, what you do see, and in some other parts of the world, is purely economic, no concern about the social fabric, no concern about the health system, no concern about the environment, no concern about some of the things that we all share concerns about. And we want to raise the awareness and the appropriate application of standards to those kinds of things.

Now, in Africa today, I think you have nine or ten of the fastest-growing economies in the world, fastest growing countries. A lot of people don’t know that. Africa is starting to boom. It’s starting to happen. And what we want to make sure of is that it’s not exploitative, but it’s a mutually beneficial and quality-of-life-raising process. And I think if we work together on our piece of our economic relationship, that will flow over into the opportunities within Africa and other countries in the world. That’s why it’s so important for our relationship to continue to grow and to work very, very closely together.

But it’s a good question, because Africa is a – it’s a place of amazing opportunity, but it’s also a place with very, very real challenges of governance right now, and we need to work at those. So thank you very, very much. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: We are here at BASE_camp in Berlin. We have Secretary of State John Kerry here. We’re live on Facebook TV. So who wants the next question? You? Okay.



QUESTION: Hi, good, thanks. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Everything good?


SECRETARY KERRY: What do you do?

QUESTION: Okay. So my name is Luisa, and I just spent one year in Lexington, Virginia.


QUESTION: And I have a friend who is now at the VMI, Virginia Military Institute.


QUESTION: And he just wrote me that he might go to Mali and – if they don’t settle down, and I’m a little bit concerned about that. And I don’t know – like, what is going on there and what are your plans and —



SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s a good – that’s a very good question. Mali, as you know, recently had a attempted coup. The military, the younger military officers, revolted against the current government. And then that spun off, they went up into the northern area because they got driven out, and joined up with some very tough people, terrorist groups that are up in that part of the country. It’s very, very large; very, very spread out; very desolate; mountains and other things up there where they’ve been hiding out and plotting, frankly. And they are involved in trying to undo the government. And so eventually, they started to move south again in order to try to take over the capital, and the French intervened because it was so risky in terms of security concerns for the region and security concerns for France and Europe.

One of the lessons we learned in Afghanistan is you cannot leave jihadist group to just make its plots and then go attack people, as they did us, totally out of the blue, destroying the World Trade Center and killing over 3,000 people, the most significant loss of life that we’ve had since Pearl Harbor, 1941. And these threats are real and they’re happening every day, unfortunately, in parts of the world. You saw what Hezbollah did in Bulgaria in the Burgas attack against a bus, killing five people. We see what’s happened in train stations and in airports and in various places in the world.

Now, I wish it was otherwise. I know you do. We all do. We want a world that’s different. Unfortunately, in this modern age, terrorism has been chosen as the preferred tool by some people who have no other offerings politically to anybody. They have no plan. They don’t have an economic plan, they don’t have a governing plan, they just have a plan to destroy what they see and take over and kill people.

Now, if you leave that unattended to, that threat grows. We’ve learned that. We’ve seen that. And what we’re fighting for here is rule of law, respect for diversity, pluralism, tolerance, the ability of different people to live together. We see that in a lot of countries, and some people don’t like that. There’s a clash of modernity with fixed ways of doing things. And some people want those fixed ways, unfortunately, to be superimposed on other people against their will, without their choice, no matter what; this is the way you do it. So we have differing beliefs about how we want to live our lives, and you have to fight for the – you have to stand up and have your values.

Now, our preference in a Mali or anywhere else is to peacefully, calmly, by rule of law, have the ability to be able to give people the choice of what they want with respect for rights, for women’s rights, for human rights, for religious rights, for all these opportunities to be able to come together. The world works better; democracies don’t attack each other. And so what we need to do is try to continue to recognize that Mali represents a threat.

Now, the French have decided it’s enough of a threat to them that they’re taking the lead and they’re engaged in trying to work to strengthen the government. They don’t want to be there, I assure you, for the long term. They don’t want to be – they understand the price. Go back and read history of the Algerian war and the French. They understand the price. But they also understand that if you don’t pay attention to those things up front and early, you pay a bigger price down the road, and that’s what we all need to understand and what we’re trying to do.

In Syria, we want a peaceful resolution. That’s our first choice. But if the President of the country decides he isn’t going to come and negotiate and he’s willing to just kill his people, then you need to at least provide some kind of support for those people who are fighting for their rights and for freedom and for some independence. So these are struggles, and they’re not easy, and your generation is really going to have to think hard about this.

I’ll tell you why: Because in parts of the world, you have 60 percent of the population under the age of 30, 50 percent of the population under the age of 21, and 40 percent of the population under the age of 18. And they don’t have jobs and they don’t get an education like you are and they don’t see opportunities. They live in a government that brings a fist down on them, and they want opportunity.

That fruit vendor in Tunisia didn’t burn himself because he was a follower of a religion or had a particular ideological point of view. He wanted to sell his fruit without corrupt policemen banging on him and telling him he couldn’t do it and so forth. In Tahrir Square, it wasn’t a religion that brought you that revolution. It was a lot of young people like you with their texting and their cell phones and their internet communications who said, “We want jobs.” It was a generational revolution. And I think leaders all over the world need to be listening to this very, very carefully.

So you ask a good question. Why Mali? Because Mali is part of that whole connection of possibilities for the future versus people who have one point of view and they’re willing to impose it on people violently, and that’s something we all need to think about hard. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. There’s a young girl in the front.



QUESTION: I appreciate your visit today. Thank you very much.


QUESTION: And, well, I’m part of JUMA, young Muslim and adolescent or Muslim teenagers, at least, who stand up for righteousness, equality, and tolerance. And I want to know what comes into your mind when you hear and see people like me, young Muslim adolescents in Germany. What comes into your mind? And do you see a difference about Muslim teenagers in Germany and Muslim teenagers in America?

SECRETARY KERRY: Now, I – thank you. (Applause.) Well, thank you. Thank you very much for asking that question, and I’m really happy that you have. And the true answer is I don’t know enough about Muslim teenagers in Germany to tell you. I mean, I just don’t know enough about that.

But if they’re like you, here asking a question, standing up in public, and inquiring about the possibilities and working as a member of JUMA and being part of this effort to try to reach out and talk about a different kind of future, if you’re – if they’re like that, and I think they are, then you have a lot in common. Because in America, we have total – occasionally, you have – I can’t tell you that a hundred percent – sometimes you have somebody who’s a little – not as tolerant as somebody else, and that happens anywhere.

But as a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view. I mean, some people have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade, even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another. And the reason is that that’s freedom, freedom of speech.

In America, you have a right to be stupid – (laughter) – if you want to be, and you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be, and we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that’s a virtue. I think that’s something worth fighting for. And unfortunately, in too many parts of the world, some religions – not – and I’m not just speaking of one religion or another. You have intolerance in a number of different kinds of religions or points of view in different things. I know that Islam is not represented by a lot of jihadists and others. I know it’s a beautiful religion. I’ve read more and more about it.

I’ve been reading a book recently called No god but God, which is the history of the Prophet and where he came from and how it developed as a religion. It’s fascinating. If I went back to college today, I’d probably go back and be a comparative religion major and a comparative literature major, because those are the things that help you understand what makes people tick and how they’re working and how they think. But the important thing is to have the tolerance to say you can have a different point of view.

I’ll give you an example: In my state of Massachusetts, I have a grandfather who goes way back, 10 grandfathers back, and he is a guy who came over on a boat to America to find freedom, religion, and he gave a famous sermon on that boat which presidents have quoted – President Kennedy quoted it, President Reagan quoted it – saying: We shall be as if a city upon a hill, and the eyes of the world will be upon us, everybody will be looking at us. And so I’ve always thought about that, as do a lot of Americans.

Well, it turned out that in Massachusetts, they weren’t as tolerant as they thought they were going to be in the beginning, and they had witch hunts in Salem, Massachusetts and they burned people at the stake, and then people ran away from there and they went down. One guy spent the entire winter going through the forests and he found Rhode Island and named the city Providence, and today you have Providence, Rhode Island, founded by somebody who ran away from religious persecution in the next state, my state. And another group went down to Connecticut, Yale University, and Connecticut are all – we’re founded by people running away from religious intolerance.

Finally, after years of working at it, we kind of worked at the balance and we got it right so that now, this – I can say to you that our country is incredibly tolerant of people of all walks of life and different philosophies and religions. And I would hope that here in Germany, you all are working at exactly that same kind of thing across the board.

And I think probably we have a lot of Muslim, a lot of practitioners of that faith in the United States, and I think that you’re probably very, very similar in your hopes that you want to be able to practice your faith, but you don’t try to push it on somebody else. You want respect for you, respect for your rights, your opportunities. They should come without prejudice to whatever your faith is. And I’m confident that, in that respect, you’re very, very similar, as you probably are with the hopes of people all over the world. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: We are here live on Facebook TV. The gentleman in the squared shirt, yeah. Please introduce yourself and your questions. The Secretary of State wants to learn, wants to know what young people think in Berlin. Live on Facebook TV. Your question, and who are you?

QUESTION: Hello, sir. My name is Sami (ph). I’m 22 years old. And I want to go back to the first question you answered, was the two-state solution of the Middle East. And – but it could be that both sides don’t want to have this compromise. Now, my question is: What is the solution of that problem?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you, Sami. (Applause.) Sami, let me just ask you. What do you do? Sami, what do you do? Are you a student now?

QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) I’m a student.

MODERATOR: What’s your subject? What studies do —

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Business informatics.

SECRETARY KERRY: (In German.) (Applause.) So what are you studying?

QUESTION: Business.

SECRETARY KERRY: Business. Okay, business. Okay.

Can I ask you what you’re studying? Here.

QUESTION: I’m still not studying. But hopefully I’m starting studying pharmacy in April.

SECRETARY KERRY: Great, fantastic. Okay. Well, you’re right. There are divisions within Palestinians and divisions in Israel. But the majority – I’ve seen polling data recently which says the majority of the people in Israel, the majority of the Palestinians, believe in a two-state solution. And the leadership of both have stated that they are committed to the two-state solution. We are committed to it, Europe is committed to the two-state solution, and that’s what we need to work at. Okay? Thank you. (Applause.)

QUESTION: Hello. I’m Ramona, I’m 21 years old, and I’m studying at – for university film studies and comparative literature. And I was an exchange student as well.

SECRETARY KERRY: Did you watch the Academy Awards?

QUESTION: Yes, I did, but not all of it, because —

SECRETARY KERRY: And did the right movie win?

QUESTION: I was for Les Miserables, but –

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, okay. Sorry. (Laughter.) I won’t – I’m not going there. (Laughter.) Anyway.

QUESTION: Well, anyways, I was an exchange student, as well. I went with a Congress Youth Bundestag program and went to Rhode Island and I stayed with a family. And my question would be: Why do you think less Americans come to Europe to make the exchange experience than Europeans do when they go to America? (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s a really good question. I am not sure that I have the answer to that. I need to find out. Honestly, I need to find out. I learned that yesterday. I was talking to our Ambassador, and we were talking about exchange students and the numbers who come from one direction or another. I understand that more European students, however, are now choosing to go to other places in Europe and not necessarily come to the United States, either. So I think we both need to think about this a little bit, because I think it’s vital. I believe in our need in America to have every student learn a language. We need to do better at that. We need to travel more. We need to be reaching out more. And I hope we can encourage that.

But I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that. I got to find out. I got to think about it. I’m sorry to – I just don’t have – do you have an answer? Do you know why, do you think? Why do you think? You were there, you –

QUESTION: Or it is just the assumption – no, I thought because they have to save so much money for college education that – (laughter) – perhaps it’s just not doable.

SECRETARY KERRY: You may have really hit the nail on the head. It’s – (laughter) —

QUESTION: Because that’s what they tell me.

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s expensive.

QUESTION: They – “Oh, I would love to go, but I can’t afford it.”

SECRETARY KERRY: “I can’t afford it,” because they have to think about paying off a college loan. That’s why we have a very significant – President Obama has committed even more to exchange programs. And he has a very significant initiative with Latin America now. We’re trying to bring more students both directions. We have the Fulbright program, as you know. We have a certain number of scholarships. It’s my hope we can create some more scholarships in the next days, and we’re working at some ideas about how to do that.

But you’ve just – that’s a very, very good point. And the State Department is responsible for our exchange programs. We have a whole division that work on it. And I’m going to go back, and you’ve now given me yet another thing to work on. Thanks. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: The gentleman in the back. Please introduce yourself. You are live on Facebook TV now, come on.

QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Kerry.


QUESTION: My name’s Tim. I’m 25 years old. I am a business college graduate and Fulbright alumni. So I would like to ask Mr. Kerry: What do you consider your toughest upcoming political challenge here in Europe, and in Germany, in particular?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, in Europe, I think the challenge, obviously, is working with you together for both of us to get our economies moving. And I think it comes down to the possibilities of the European-U.S. trade agreement. I think that’s really important for us both. We need to work on that and make that happen. (Applause.)

We both need to create jobs. We both need to open up more economic opportunity. We both – we have to deal – you’ve been dealing with your deficit and your budget issues, and your chancellor has made – have to make some very hard decisions, and she has, and she’s been a good partner with us in this effort. But we, in the United States, need to get our budget resolved. We’re having a big fight, as you know, right now about that. I think we’ll get there. I think you can count on the fact that we will get our budget straightened out over the next period of time. Can’t tell you exactly how, but we’re going to do it. And the result will be helping both of our relationships as we do that.

But that’s the biggest challenge that we face between – during the – the other things are cooperating – continuing to cooperate – on external issues. And there, we thank Germany. We thank you for your help and support with respect to Afghanistan. We thank you for your help and support with respect to Iran. We have other initiatives with counterterrorism and other things that we work on. And we need to continue to do that. Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you. The next –



SECRETARY KERRY: Two in the back. I want to make sure we get some of the folks in the back, where they hide back here.

MODERATOR: Okay, good.


QUESTION: Hi, my name is Oleg, I am 22 years old, and I spent a year in St. Louis, Missouri. And today I’m studying –

SECRETARY KERRY: Can I stop you for a minute? How many of you have spent time in the United States, studying? Wow. (Laughter.) That’s incredible. How many want to?

MODERATOR: Again? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: So the same ones. Go back – that’s pretty good, that’s impressive. Sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, you’re fine. Today I’m studying disaster management here in Berlin,

and –

MODERATOR: Disaster management?

QUESTION: Yeah, disaster management, so managing natural catastrophes and disasters, like Hurricane Sandy or Haiti or floods in Pakistan, or wherever.

And since you have served the Army, what exactly made you an opponent of the Vietnam War and maybe of war in general? That would interest me.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s an interesting question. First of all, I was in the Navy. (Laughter.) (Applause.) But I love the Army. (Laughter.) We worked with the Army very, very closely, and with the Marines. We worked very, very closely.

I went to Vietnam because I thought I should serve my country, and because, initially, I sensed that it had strategic implications for our country. And that’s what our leaders were telling us. What I learned when I got there was very different from what we had been told and what we thought. I found the war was a civil war, that we were in the middle of this civil war, that for various reasons the strategies that we were pursuing were not working and weren’t going to. And it was, in many ways, a surrogate war for the Cold War itself, for the relationship with the Soviet Union then, and China, and other perceptions, the so-called domino theory that people talked about back then. I learned, really, that it just – I thought it was a mistake. And so when I came back to America as a young veteran, I led Veterans Against the War.

Now, anybody who has been in war should hate war. Occasionally, there are a few people who may not. But most people who have been to war will come out and tell you they hate war. And yet I’ve learned, because of the way the world works, that sometimes you have to stand up to fight for and defend something where there’s no other alternative. Now, that’s why I believe war ought to be a last resort. War ought to be after you have exhausted the remedies of diplomacy. And that’s one of the reasons why I am so powerfully committed to diplomacy and to trying to make peace and prevent a war.

But I don’t accept the notion that there isn’t some time where you may not have to defend your interests and fight for them. Afghanistan is an example. I voted to go in to Afghanistan because we were attacked by people from Afghanistan. And the only way to defend ourselves against the next attack was to go after them and end that threat. Now, sometimes that happens in life. I am not for wars of choice, but I am supportive of self-defense and of the notion that sometimes you have interests you have to protect. I supported President Clinton when he decided to go and send troops into the Balkans, because of what was happening there, the killing that was taking place there. And I thought it was important to prevent disaster in Benghazi.

So I think there are times where you need to put your values and your interests together and defend them, and that’s why we have NATO, that’s why we work together on cooperative defense efforts. But it’s not because – anybody who has been in war knows war is the failure of diplomacy, war is the failure of other solutions to be able to avoid that possibility. And those are the circumstances under which any nation has to safeguard its rights to defend itself. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: We have time for two more questions. The Secretary of State has a tight schedule. I would like to give a chance to the gentleman in the back here. What’s your question? Who are you?


QUESTION: Is it on? Yeah, it is.

SECRETARY KERRY: Who are you? Where do you come from? What are you doing here? Why did you come? What’s – (laughter) —

QUESTION: I’m supposed to ask you the questions, I think. No – (laughter) –

SECRETARY KERRY: I want to have more fun and ask more questions. I want to find out what you guys do. (Laughter and applause.) Everybody is just asking – I want to – tell me a little bit about something. What do I need to know about Germany?

QUESTION: What do you know about Germany?

SECRETARY KERRY: What do I need to know? What would you want me to know about Germany, coming here today? What would you want me to leave here thinking about Germany?

QUESTION: Damn, and I prepared such a good question. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: I’ll let you get it. I’ll let you get your question. Anybody. Who wants to tell me?


SECRETARY KERRY: What do I need to know about Germany?

QUESTION: Well, first of all, I wanted to say I’m an American living in Germany, so no worries. I actually participated in the same program, the Congress-Bundestag program.


QUESTION: So my name is Alison, I’m 26 years old. I’m an engineer here and I’m doing research, and I’ve been in Berlin for four years now. So I can say – and I can thank the state government and the state, basically, for what they’ve been doing. So no worries that the –

SECRETARY KERRY: So what is it, do you think, as an American – now, it’s not fair that an American is telling me what I ought to know about Germany. (Laughter.) But –

QUESTION: I at least wanted to reassure you, as well, that no worries, that the exchange is starting – is going both ways.


QUESTION: That there is exchange.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. That’s important. All right. Who wants to tell me something I need – I should know? Seriously, tell me something that I need to know.

Yeah, sir.

QUESTION: Now, well, maybe if you have the chance to walk around Berlin a little bit you might see some so-called tripping stones in the ground, which are gold stones with the name of people who were killed by the Nazis. And that’s a way for us to remind ourselves of that, just by walking around the city. And I think that’s just a very good way of remembering and not forgetting. And I think maybe you will have a chance to see that.

SECRETARY KERRY: Wow, I – (applause) —

MODERATOR: Some more ideas the Secretary of State should know about Germany.

SECRETARY KERRY: I didn’t know that, and that’s very powerful. Very, very powerful. Thank you for telling me that.


QUESTION: So I’m half Russian, so I know both nationalities, German and Russian. And about Germany, I can say that all the stereotypes, that they’re precise and punctual and very responsible is true, mostly. (Laughter.) So that’s a good thing. And also about Germany in general, about the country, Germans always look up to Americans, because Americans are very – like, always proud of their country, and, like, because of our history, they – well, we kind of fear to show our proudness of Germany. But recently, especially during the football and – well, soccer in America, well —


QUESTION: – that changed slowly. So, yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: You mean about football, everybody gets excited and —

QUESTION: Yes, and the first – like in 2006, when the world –


QUESTION: – championships took part in Germany, like, it was the first time that Germans showed their flag and were, like, proud that they’re German.

SECRETARY KERRY: I love it, that’s great.

QUESTION: So they are going – so they see America as a big – like, not big brother –


QUESTION: Big brother in a good way.

SECRETARY KERRY: But a good friend.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: A friend you look up to. I understand.

QUESTION: Yeah, definitely.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s important to know. Thank you. And I am a big World Cup fan, I’m a soccer fan, and Germany is a powerhouse. Be careful now.

MODERATOR: Yes, we are. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: All right. Who else? Something I really should know. Yes, way back here. Am I – I’m sorry.

QUESTION: So my name is Fabian, I’m 20 years old and studying political science here in Berlin. I’ve been to U.S. too. And one thing – well, what I noticed about Germany, comparing, well, people I met during the exchange and people I’m meeting now and – while in the political science field is that, yes, there is a growing admiration too of the United States here from Germany, but there is also growing critical sense. And I don’t envy you in your position at all. It’s very tough to have to handle with all these countries, especially, yeah, having to hear all the critique that you hear, mostly from foreign countries, that we’re missing a lot of corporations.

But I was very glad when I heard that you’re emphasizing on the state of right – on working more towards human rights. But a lot of time, we are – well, a lot of people my age are noticing or judging American statements that direction – that seem to us hypocritical. And when we see results of United Nations and negotiations – for example, for the arms trade treaty that have been, yeah, slowed down by countries like United States, and yet there are statements and yet you are very committed to human rights. But we always see that when we try to put something forward, there are not only country in the East but also countries in the West like United States that push it backward again. So it is very, very sad for us.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me take that under advisement. I didn’t want to deprive this guy of his question too. I said I’d come back to him. So he worked hard on it and I want to make sure he gets it. Yeah.

QUESTION: So kind of you, thank you. I was just wondering, after your inauguration you tried to call the Russian Ambassador – the Russian Foreign Minister and you’re going to have a meeting with him later. And there has been much tension going on with all the legislation, the Magnitsky Act, the Dima Yakovlev Act, as well as the homosexuality – anti-homosexuality legislation in Russia, which clearly violates human rights.

I was just wondering, what are you going to tell him on that, or are you going to do something about it, since —


QUESTION: — the German Government is kind of – well, not very intrigued with critique.

SECRETARY KERRY: Let me just say this to you: It would be a horrible diplomatic faux pas by me if I told you what I’m going to tell Lavrov before I see him. So I’m – (laughter and applause) – I know him. I have a good relationship with him. Russia is very important to dealing with many of the problems that we face. I am confident we can find common ground, even as we disagree on certain points. And I look forward to having a good conversation with him.

Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Over here.

SECRETARY KERRY: Do I have a – I’m told – how much time do we have?

MODERATOR: We are – you are scheduled to –

SECRETARY KERRY: I have to stop? Okay.

MODERATOR: America is waiting, Guido Westerwelle is waiting, Lavrov is waiting. You have a tight schedule, we know. (Laughter.) I’m sorry.

SECRETARY KERRY: I’ll come back. (In German.) (Applause.)

MODERATOR: (In German.) Thank you very much.


MODERATOR: John Kerry, thank you very much for being here, for the pleasure of you here. We would love to welcome you back. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

(In German) — Facebook TV, live here from the Berlin BASE_camp here. And we did a town hall meeting on Facebook TV. John Kerry, the Secretary of State, was answering questions. Thank you very much. We’d love you to be back here.



Summer and Fall at Prairie State College