Incoming Secretary of State, John Kerry, Pays a Visit to Mount St. James
Kerry Stops at Holy Cross on his ‘Thank You Tour Through the State
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013 16:02
On Tuesday morning, January 29, Edward Augustus, Director of Government and Community Relations , received a phone call from a former staff person, who now works for Secretary Kerry. She asked Augustus if the College would be willing to host now Secretary of State, John Kerry, for the Central Massachusetts stop on his “Thank You” tour around Massachusetts on Thursday, January 31. Honored by the opportunity, Augustus eagerly accepted and quickly got to work, as the campus community had less than 48 hours to prepare for the event. It took a quick mobilization of a team to make the event happen from offices across campus, including Public Safety, Dining Services, Grounds Management, Public Affairs, and Student Affairs.
“The purpose of the event was for Secretary Kerry to be able to say thank you to his early supporters and community activists who, going all the way back to the 70s, supported [Kerry] when no one else knew who he was,” Augustus shared. Before he addressed the entire community, Secretary Kerry met with a small group of supporters in a room in Hogan, to thank them for their help and contributions over the years.
Augustus also wanted to ensure that the Holy Cross community was able to participate. Kerry requested to meet with a group of student leaders on campus, and thus 25 students from various classes and organizations had the opportunity to attend a meet-and-greet with Kerry prior to his address. The Student Government Association (SGA) Co-Presidents Kate Shea, ‘13 and Paul Misci, ‘13 presented Secretary Kerry, a Boston College grad, with a Holy Cross hat, shirt and tie. Kerry joked that he would make sure to wear his new HC gear next time he visits his alma mater.
Expecting the meet-and-greet to be somewhat brief, students were shocked when Kerry paused to ask each student in the room what organization he or she represented, and even asked follow up questions. Alannah Heffernan, ‘14, shared that she was from the College Republicans and the room bursted into laughter. Kerry laughed too and then commented on the importance of being open to discussion and debate. He then asked where the College Democrats were in the room.
“Kerry stressed the point that he is no longer representing the Democratic Party, but the whole country now in his position as Secretary of State,” said Heffernan.
He showed interest in clubs all across campus, asking how long the Dance Marathon was for, what the daily routine of an SGA staff person was like, how many a cappella groups were on campus, what kind of work was involved with Students Programs for Urban Development (SPUD), etc.
He then went on to take questions from the students, talking about the importance of being a good citizen, and urging the group to remain active in our communities, a point he echoed in his address to the larger crowd just moments later. One student asked which country that the Secretary was most looking forward to working with, and Kerry joked, “I can’t pick a favorite because then you will tweet it and that will be the end of me.” He then went on to tie the question into how important it is to recognize how interconnected the world is. He truly connected with the students, and politics aside, most students in the room felt that it was truly an extraordinary experience.
Because there was not much advance notice for the event, Augustus and his team had a lot to think about in the planning of the Secretary’s visit. “Security was a huge concern,” shared Augustus. “It is not every day that you are hosting someone who is fourth in line to succession of the president.”As a result, major security measures were exercised ranging from media check-ins and security clearings for the equipment to bomb dogs sniffing the area, and a motorcade.
Some logistics were difficult. Because of the short notice, the invitation to the Worcester community for the event did not have an RSVP. So, Augustus and his team had to create a floor plan for Kerry’s main address that would be able to handle a large crowd, but also make intimate and respectable enough a smaller crowd. As anyone who attended the event can share, it was certainly the former of the possibilities that resulted. With a crowd of over 500 community members, faculty, students, and staff, the Hogan Ballroom was overflowing.
Ellen Ryder, Director of Public Affairs, shared that even Secretary Kerry looked shocked at the turnout. A colleague of Ryder’s shared with her that she saw Kerry’s jaw drop and even saw him mouth a ‘wow,’ perhaps unprepared for the crowd and enthusiasm in the room.
Rev. Philips Boroughs, S.J., began the event by welcoming all that were present. He addressed the students in the room by advising, “Use your education here to find your vocation for serving our country and the world.” He recalled the many Holy Cross alumni that are currently working for the State Department, including Ambassador Harry Thomas, Ambassador to the Philippians, as a testament to Holy Cross’ mission of being men and women for others around the world. Augustus commented, “Fr. Boroughs did an excellent job in his remarks. He had no notes, which shows that he is comfortable with who we are, and what our mission is.”
Fr. Boroughs introduced Congressman Jim McGovern, who was asked to officially introduce Secretary Kerry. McGovern applauded Holy Cross for teaching students the importance of becoming global citizens, and reiterated the importance of serving our communities and the world. McGovern thanked Kerry for being a voice for the citizens of Worcester and for his impact on the Central Massachusetts community. He wished him well in his new position as Secretary of State, sharing with the audience, “I believe that he can change the world.” He addressed Secretary Kerry, saying “Thank you from this community. We have your back, as you have always had ours.”