Secretary of State John Kerry received the Legion of Honor in Paris on Saturday, where he warned in his acceptance speech of “dangerous currents of authoritarian populism.”
“No part of the world remembers better what happens when difficult economies mix with sectarian exploitation with nationalism and fear,” Kerry said. “We really need to be careful going forward and think hard about the choices that we face.”
Kerry said the award, as “everybody in America is rekindling this personal sense of the relationship between us,” underscores the special relationship between the United States and France.
“Together we have traveled this journey of peaceful pursuit of social progress, of continuing to try to respect the rights of man, to live an honest life in democracy where people really are respected and where we can do better, and most importantly where we live by rule of law. And we see the challenges for that in today’s world,” he said. “…We are pursuing diplomacy because the world needs the values that have been espoused by France and the United States since our inception and built on the experience of France.”
Kerry reminisced on the P5+1 coming together to push through the nuclear agreement with Iran, noting that “in this complicated world” they “actually found a path forward and worked together and sort of sorted through difficult contradictions.”
“…Trying to provide a better vision for people of what the choices are, is not highfalutin, it’s not out of touch, it’s not pie-in-the-sky. It’s what defines both of our countries, and it’s why we are who we are and it’s why we are where we are. And so I believe very, very deeply that we need to maintain our fidelity to those values.”
He asked those present to “not to be diminished by the crosscurrents that are flowing through the world today because I’m convinced – and I really believe this – I see the world – I see the glass as definitively half full, not half empty.”
“And I say that because for the first time in history severe poverty is under the 10 percent mark on this planet. We are curing diseases we never thought we could cure. If you are a young person born in some deprived place in the world, you are more likely to be fed and more likely to go to school than at any time in human history. If you are a mother giving birth somewhere in the world, you are more likely not to die in the bringing to life than at any time in human history. We have food and food product, the capacity to grow,” he continued. “But even as we do that – yeah, we’ve got climate change and all these other challenges – I am absolutely convinced that we know the choices we need to make. They’re staring us in the face. There’s no problem we face that doesn’t have a solution. And this will continue to inspire me to stay at it and continue to work in whatever capacity I can.”
Kerry also thanked Napoleon Bonaparte for creating the award, drawing laughs dignitaries in attendance.