Secretary of State Kerry Speaking at U.Va. Today

Newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry will make his first public remarks regarding American foreign policy and diplomacy today at the University of Virginia.

U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan will give opening remarks at the historic event, followed by U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt (R-Chatham). U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) will introduce Kerry, who will deliver his address at about 11 a.m. in Old Cabell Hall auditorium. 

Ahead of his first trip overseas, Kerry’s speech at U.Va. will “speak directly to the American people about the value of President Obama’s investments in a strong foreign policy,” according to a State Department press release issued last week. “In particular, Kerry will discuss how a relatively small investment in foreign policy and diplomatic efforts results in a big return for America’s economy and security, and that American businesses and citizens have a stake in the ongoing debate about our nation’s budget priorities.”

U.Va. students, faculty and staff learned Tuesday whether they had secured a ticket to the historic talk through an online lottery. More than 75 percent of the 826 seats in Old Cabell Hall were secured for current students, faculty and staff, said interim U.Va. spokesperson McGregor McCance, who noted that 1,800 people entered the lottery.

Those who didn’t secure tickets still have options. There will be two remote viewing sites: one at Alumni Hall, 211 Emmet St. South, the other at the Darden School of Business’ Abbott Auditorium. Seating at both venues will be on a first-come, first-served basis; doors open at 10 a.m. Parking at Darden will be available in the school’s garage. A limited amount of parking is available at Alumni Hall, with additional spaces available at the Central Grounds Parking garage.

Kerry’s talk will also be streamed and tweeted live. Find the webcast on the University home page; look for tweets from @UVA.

Whether in Old Cabell or from a remote viewing site, “This will be a wonderful opportunity for our students, faculty and staff to hear from our newly appointed secretary of state on topics of global importance,” Sullivan said.

Why U.Va.?

Jeffrey W. Legro, vice provost for global affairs and Randolph P. Compton Professor of Politics in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that Kerry likely selected U.Va. for his inaugural public address because of its unique place in American history.

“U.Va. founder Thomas Jefferson served as the country’s first secretary of state and was one of the country’s first global thinkers,” Legro said in an email. “Jefferson, Madison and Monroe helped create the building blocks of democratic civil society here more than 200 years ago. The Academical Village was meant to foster the exchange of ideas across disciplines to nurture creativity and innovation ­­– and that same ethos infuses the University today.”

Legro noted that more than 180 alumni and parents serve or have served in the Foreign Service; that U.Va. is a leading school in the provision of Peace Corps volunteers; and that many U.Va. alumni make their careers abroad.

Given all of this, U.Va. is a perfect backdrop for Kerry’s inaugural address, Legro said.

Kerry’s remarks today will be the first in a series of domestic addresses he will deliver to report to the American people his discussions abroad and their impact back home, State Department officials said last week in announcing Kerry’s visit.

Post-Kerry Address Events

Students and faculty will hold two forums in the afternoon to discuss and debate the issues raised in Kerry’s speech.

Students from the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society and the Washington Literary Society and Debating Union will engage in a lunch debate to discuss whether there should be greater U.S. investment in the U.S. State Department and other issues raised in Kerry’s speech. The debate will take place at 1 p.m. in the Center for International Studies in Hotel A, across from University Chapel.

At 5:30 p.m. in Garrett Hall’s Great Hall, the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy will host a “flash forum,” a new initiative of the school. The forum will feature Dean Harry Harding, Assistant Dean Gerry Warburg and professor John Owen of the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics in the College of Arts & Sciences, all of whom will discuss Kerry’s speech. Like flash seminars, the forum will feature an informal discussion with students and faculty, but unlike flash seminars, this event will involve a larger number of participants.

Food will be provided at both events, which are free and open to the public and media.

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