This week, during his first overseas trip as Secretary of State, John Kerry talked to German students about the virtues of the United States:
"As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view.The focus of the news headlines and the attention of his German audience settled on the statement that "in America you have a right to be stupid" (See NPR's brief report and the audio from Reuters). But what captures my attention is Kerry's description of American virtues. This is a fascinating turn of phrase for a Secretary who succinctly stated that "foreign policy is economic policy," giving fuel to the historiographic debate that ideology has a second class status in foreign relations history.
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.
The reason is, that's freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid--if you want to be. And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be. And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that's a virtue. I think that's something worth fighting for."