(BERLIN) — Speaking in a town hall filled with German students at a stop on his first European Tour Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a well received and humorously blunt speech.
Kerry was reportedly “treated like a rock star” by the crowd. The former Massachusetts senator and Vietnam vet spoke about the U.S. ideals of freedom of speech, religion and expression. He even was asked a question about the Arab Spring and subsequent protests. But the laughs came when he told the students that Americans “have a right to be stupid.”
“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another,” Kerry said, making the crowd laugh. ”The reason is that’s freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid, if you want to be.”
Kerry called that right “a virtue” worth fighting for. He said he understood the frustration of young people in the Middle East and around the world who want the right to express themselves.
The new secretary of state’s comments delighted the crowd abroad but raised some eyebrows back home.
Kerry’s European tour started in London on Monday, and he spent Wednesday in France, where he showed off his foreign language skills and cracked a few more good natured jokes. U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin had introduced the secretary with a reference to personal history with the State Department, saying that Kerry had Foreign Service in his blood. Kerry joked to a chuckling audience that while the Foreign Service might be in his blood, he had “no intention of bleeding.”
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