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Sen. John Forbes Kerry: Candidate Background

John Forbes Kerry was born 11 December 1943 to Richard Kerry and Rosemary Forbes Kerry in Denver, Colorado. (Forbes, of course, denotes the Forbes.) Shortly after his birth, the Kerry family returned to their native Massachusetts, followed by a move to Washington, DC in 1950.

In 1957, while his father serves as U.S. Ambassador to Norway, John Kerry is sent to boarding school, to the exclusive Fessenden School in West Newton, Mass. The following year, Kerry matriculated to St. Paul's School in Concord, Conn.

By 1962, Kerry had been inducted into the upper echelons of progressive politics in New England. In this year he enrolled at Yale University and worked as a volunteer for Ted Kennedy's senatorial campaign. He meets President John F. Kennedy on two separate occasions, and began dating Janet Auchincloss, Jacqueline Kennedy's half-sister.

His experience at Yale placed him on the right-wing for the first and only time of his life -- specifically, playing right-wing on Yale's championship soccer team.

Four years later, 1966, Kerry graduates from Yale and enters the U.S. Navy. Shortly thereafter he is ordered to active duty, commencing his first tour of duty in December 1967 aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Gridley in the Vietnam Theater. One year later, December 1968, Kerry began his second tour of duty as swift boat skipper, patrolling the waters of Vietnam's Mekong Delta. Kerry's second tour ended that April, and he received an early discharge from the Navy in January 1970, after requesting transfer out of Vietnam.

Immediately following his discharge, Kerry launched his first bid for public office, running (unsuccessfully) as a war protest candidate for Massachusetts' Third Congressional District. In May he married his first wife, Julia Thorne.

It was during this first congressional bid that Kerry said in an interview with The Harvard Crimson that he wished to "almost eliminate CIA activity" and wanted to see U.S. forces "dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."

Following his failed congressional bid, Kerry's antiwar activities only intensified. On April 22, 1971, Kerry gave his infamous testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accusing U.S. troops in Vietnam of countless war crimes and atrocities. The following day, Kerry the warrior patriot, together with other veteran protestors, tossed their service medals and ribbons over a fence on Capitol Hill.

Slowly rising to political prominence, Kerry won the Democrat primary for Massachusetts' Fifth Congressional District in 1972, but lost to Republican Paul Cronin in the general election. In 1973, Kerry enrolled in Boston College Law School. Graduating in 1976, Kerry went on to serve in the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office until 1979, when he entered private practice. In 1981, Kerry began his campaign for lieutenant governor, and was elected to the office in the following year's election, as Michael Dukakis is elected governor. Also in 1982, prior to the general election, Kerry separates from his first wife, Julia.

In 1984, Sen. Paul Tsongas announced that he would not seek reelection, prompting Kerry to run for the seat, which he subsequently won.

Kerry's ascension through the ranks of one of the world's most exclusive clubs -- the United States Senate -- has been, to say the least, rocky. Courting the favor of everyone from arch conservative Jesse Helms of North Carolina to fellow Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, many of his colleagues regarded Kerry as a brash upstart, keen on self-promotion in his rush for the top. The label of opportunist has dogged Kerry since his return from Vietnam, when he became the figurehead of the leftist extremist group, Veterans Against the War. Quite literally overnight, Kerry became the anti-war movement's golden child: the educated, well-spoken, highly-decorated veteran who could give legitimacy and broader appeal to a group Richard Nixon described as "bearded weirdoes."

Kerry, renowned for his ego in a chamber not known for personal humility, has, over the years, developed a certain knack for ruffling his colleagues. As recently as 1994, Kerry even managed to send fellow Massachusetts leftist Ted Kennedy into a rage when the junior senator publicly suggested he was "delighted" by that year's GOP takeover of Congress -- the so-called Gingrich Revolution -- because it was the just desert for Democrats' "screw-ups." "I want this change," Kerry told The Boston Herald, blaming Democrats' losses on Clinton/Kennedy proposals for universal, socialized healthcare. "The Democrats have articulated...a very poor agenda. It's hard for me to believe that some of these guys could have been as either arrogant or obtuse as to not know where the American people were coming from."

Now, however, times have changed and Ted Kennedy has become one of John Kerry's most notable advocated, single-handedly propelling a floundering Kerry candidacy ahead of the crowded pack of Democrat primary contenders, practically assuring him his party's nomination.