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Kerry's comments carry credibility issues

By The Record Staff
On February 27, 2013


It appears as though John Kerry needs a vocal filter.
In his first address to a foreign nation since assuming his current role as Secretary of
State, Kerry told a group of German students on Tuesday that in America, "you have
the right to be stupid if you want to be."
As a leader in one of the most renowned nations in the world, Kerry needs to be
more careful with his words when he addresses an audience - especially if that
audience isn't American.
America, for better or worse, is constantly under a microscope. Each word spoken
by its leaders will be analyzed globally by members of the media and the public
As a result, Americans are often looked at as an ethnocentric bunch. Kerry's words
did little to alter the foreign perception of our nation, and they likely furthered the
false notion that this country is superior to all others.
His comment may also lead one to believe that we, as Americans, tolerate stupidity.
According to the International Business Times, as of November 2012, the U.S.
was ranked 17th in an assessment of global education systems by the Economist
Intelligence Unit.
hWhile true that these statistics don't tell the entire story as it pertains to America's
education, it's certainly an alarmingly low ranking considering the resources
available to us. As such, the negative "stupid Americans" mantra that many non-
Americans have is only reinforced by Kerry's comment.
In context, his words weren't as bad as they seemed at face value. He was assuring
his listeners that thanks to freedom of speech, the Supreme Court "allows one group
or another to march in a parade even if it's the most provocative thing in the world
and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another."
It's safe to assume that he had positive intentions - he was validating the First
Amendment in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
Still, the context isn't going to be examined nearly as much as the headline-making,
bold idea that Americans can be stupid if they choose to be. Our forefathers didn't
found this nation or the First Amendment on being tolerant of stupidity.
They also didn't found the nation expecting its leaders to judge its constituents
based on a belief system that they may abide by. Kerry's comments imply just that,
even if it's not intentional.
Kerry needs to be more aware of what he says if America has any chance of
changing its public perception on the international stage.

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