Kerry said President Obama offered him the job of secretary of state a week before United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from contention, an earlier timeline than has been previously reported.
“He called me, actually a week before Susan got out of the thing,” Kerry said. “He called me and said, ‘You’re my choice. I want you to do this.’ He asked me to keep it quiet. I did. I sat on it.”
Kerry said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been very helpful in the transition — and he hinted, without elaboration, that they collaborated while he served as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
“We had a very good relationship,” Kerry said. “We kept a lot of things secret that we talked about.’’
After being sworn in to his new post Friday, Kerry will follow tradition and begin work at the State Department at 9 a.m. on Monday.
“There are certain things I intend to issue instructions on the minute I come in,” Kerry said. “I won’t go into the details, but Benghazi, embassy security, issues regarding some of the analysis that I want to track with respect to Iran, with respect to Syria. Trouble spots.”
He said there would be a “major meeting on Syria in the next few days.”
He also said he would start traveling this month but he would not attempt to surpass the 112 countries that Clinton visited.
“I’m not going to try,” Kerry said. “I respect that, honestly. But that’s not my goal. I mean I will do what we need to do. But I have a sense of what I want to try to focus on.”
A high point of Kerry’s farewell tour was a visit to historic Faneuil Hall, where he declared his candidacy for president in 2003 and conceded the election the following year.
He received a standing ovation as he entered the packed hall to the U2 song “Beautiful Day,” greeting former staff members and current members of the state’s congressional delegation.
Kerry hugged Governor Deval Patrick when he reached the stage, before launching into a 40-minute speech that touched on many of the themes in his farewell address to the Senate on Wednesday, including the need for Republicans and Democrats to find common ground.
Earlier in the day, he visited the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office in Woburn, the same arm of government where he began working as a prosecutor in 1976 just out of law school.
He was loose, cracking jokes. He spoke with anyone who had the time, posing for pictures, signing autographs, and engaging in the small talk he rarely seems to have time for.
One man shook his hand and told him he was happy to have campaigned for Kerry, since he won’t be able to again.
“You never know,” Kerry joked.
Globe staffer Travis Andersen contributed to this report. Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.