The normally reserved John Kerry had plenty of jokes Wednesday during his commencement speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
“I’ve been asked, ‘What is the secret to have a real impact on government?'” the former Massachusetts senator and secretary of state told the postgraduate students.
Kerry said his advice has recently changed.
“I used to say, ‘Either run for office or get a degree from the Harvard Kennedy School,'” he said. “With this White House, I’d say, ‘Buy Rosetta Stone and learn Russian.'”
The jokes drew a mix of cheer and “oohs.”
“Listen, don’t get upset at me, folks,” Kerry continued. “Opportunities have never been better for Kennedy School grads. Just think, there are thousands of jobs open in the Trump administration.”
According to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service’s appointee tracker, 445 Trump administration positions requiring Senate confirmation remain vacant and without a nominee.
“Anybody here want to be attorney general?” Kerry asked the crowd of students, adding that their presence at the ceremony might be disqualifying.
“I did not come here to be partisan or political or pessimistic,” he said, on a more serious note. “But I need to tell the truth. And together we all need to be acting on it.”
Kerry went on to say that the policies and actions of President Donald Trump’s administration have not been normal, but that he was old enough to have lived through other turbulent times — and to be optimistic about the country’s future.
“I believe America’s got a pretty good, almost 241-year record of turning difficult situations into progress,” he said.