Kerry's mother, Rosemary, grew up in the tradition of the patricians—the br /ahmins—or Protestant establishment of New England. Her maiden name was Forbes, and she grew up as a descendant of the Forbes and Winthrop families. A major element of the patricians' unwritten moral code is that one should participate in public affairs, and son John complied.
At Yale he served as president of the Yale Political Union and a leader of the debate team. During his senior year, Kerry signed up in late 1965 to join the U.S. Navy, with the expectation that he would serve in Vietnam. Kerry served in the U.S. Navy from August 1966 to January 1970.
By 1968 he was training to be a skipper on a swift boat in the rivers, canals, and waterways of Vietnam. It was during his four months as captain of two different swift boats that he performed heroic service. He earned three Purple Hearts, a br /onze Star, and a Silver Star. Kerry earned one of those Purple Hearts after saving the life of a U.S. Army Special Forces officer, Jim Rassmann.
Still, Kerry has given conflicting accounts of why he served in Vietnam. In the 1998 interview with American Windsurfer he imputed no religious meaning to it. Yet in an early July speech to the African Methodist Episcopal convention he did. Summarizing President Clinton's endorsement of Kerry's candidacy, in which Clinton invoked the Prophet Isaiah, Kerry said, "Whenever there was a call to service in war or in peace, I have always answered that call."
Mark Stricherz is a journalist in Washington, D.C.
Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
This article is a sidebar to John Kerry's Open Mind | The candidate has roots in liberal Catholicism, establishment Protestantism, and secular idealism.
Other Christianity Today articles on John Kerry and the Democratic party from our Election 2004 page include:
A Question of Faith | Top Democrats have much work ahead to convince voters of their religious sincerity.—A Christianity Today editorial (March 03, 2004)
The Politics of Communion | Church leaders who admonish politicians on moral issues are doing their jobs.—A Christianity Today editorial (May 26, 2004)
Weblog: Kerry Touts His Sleeveless Faith | Plus: Mugabe's demand for church support, Economist predicts a new golden age of giving, new claims about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other stories from online sources around the world. (July 30, 2004)
Weblog: Boston or Bust | Plus: Vonette br /ight, a homeschool lawsuit, and a dearth of other religion stories from online sources around the world. (July 29, 2004)
Weblog: Worshiping an 'Awesome God' at the Democratic National Convention | Plus: Amish in the City premieres tonight, challenging Sri Lanka's anti-conversion bill, Christians accused of bad motives in Sudan activism, and other stories from online sources around the world. (July 28, 2004)
Religion at the Democratic National Convention | Plus: Who's talking religion at the Democratic National Convention, council vows to keep praying in Jesus' name, and other stories from online sources around the world. (second item) (July 27, 2004)
Weblog: Why Kerry Is Sincere When He Says He Believes Life Begins at Conception | Plus: AmeriCorps loses suit on Catholic school placements, U.K. considers new religious hate law, Portland's Catholic archdiocese declares bankruptcy, and other stories from online sources around the world. (July 07, 2004)
Weblog: What John Edwards Believes | John Kerry's Methodist running mate oversees his church's urban ministries, but can he win evangelicals' votes? (July 06, 2004)
Bishop Bans Pro-choice Voters From Communion | Votes may be considered sin if cast for politicians who support abortions. (May 14, 2004)
Weblog: Communion Watch Continues | Why John Kerry probably won't be denied any time soon. (April 12, 2004)
Weblog: Kerry's Religion Is Today's Big Politics Story (March 29, 2004)
'Swing Evangelicals' | Democrats seek to show that they also have faith-based values. (Jan. 09, 2004)
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