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Mark Berman

John Kerry with students

What is your favorite BC Law memory of John Kerry?

Finding a favorite is a bit difficult as I have many fabulous memories of John.  There were the meetings of our study group, the benefit concert during our first year to raise money to retire the debt hanging over John from his 1972 Congressional campaign, and sailing in Buzzards Bay the day after our last first-year exam.

How would you describe his personality back then--was he outgoing, very involved in the life of the school? More introspective and focused?

John is still the same person that he was in law school. He was then and still is intellectually curious, motivated to excel, warm and involved in everything. What he has now that he didn’t have then is a lifetime of personal experiences to bring to every situation.

Could you ever have imagined the John Kerry you knew in law school would become Secretary of State? Were there early signs of his leadership skills that have served him so well during a life in public service?

Sure. As John had just run for Congress in 1972 (and lost), a political career was certainly a likely path to expect him to follow. His leadership skills and personal magnetism were obvious having been exhibited during his time in Vietnam and in his efforts to oppose the continuation of the war upon his return. It wouldn’t have been hard to imagine John becoming Secretary of State, although that specific position would not have been on my radar at the time. In retrospect, the post of Secretary of State seems a most natural position for John. He’ll be able to apply to that position the many skills, perspective, experiences and personal relationships he has acquired over a lifetime of public service.  

What do you feel are John Kerry's greatest strengths, and how do you think they will translate into his new position as SOS?

John’s greatest strengths are his intellect, his compassion, his memory and his capacity to juggle multiple responsibilities at the same time. He’s going to be a great SOS.

Have you kept in touch with John through the years?

Yes. I’ve been blessed to have been able to keep in touch with each of the members of my BCLS study group (Ronna Schneider, Regina Rockefeller, Jill Landsberg and John). I’ve been partners with Jill and Regina although at different times and at different law firms, I see Jill and her husband, Lewis, in Wellfleet every summer, and we’ve all helped out on John’s political campaigns to the extent we were able. We were all together to watch John’s acceptance speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, and most recently for his swearing in as SOS. The times we all get together have been special.

What was/is he like as a friend?

As someone who has lived his life in the public eye and, given the reality of politics that makes a politician the focus of public jokes, ridicule and very personal attacks (often with a total absence of truth behind them), the public might be surprised to know that John is an incredibly warm human being. He remembers the personal details and doesn’t promote the efforts he makes to help individuals in need. His responsibilities to his family and his country cause his time to be at a premium, but he makes the time to maintain relationships. Getting together from time to time always feels like no time has passed at all.

We have a lot of BC Law graduates in Congress and serving as judges--and as managing partners--across the country. Is there something in the water here? Do you think the law school prepares people for leadership positions in the public and the private sectors?

I do believe that the Boston area’s strong historical, political and intellectual focus causes one to think of politics more than they might if they were studying law in another part of the country. I also think that BCLS has been willing to accept students from a variety of backgrounds and at various stages of their lives, allowing the student body to be incredibly diverse which makes for a broader classroom experience that you would find if all of the students were simply fresh grads from an undergraduate school as I was. Add to that BCLS’s effort to present its students with a flexible law school environment that encourages them to explore multiple ways to take advantage of a legal education and you have a law school where people with leadership qualities can get a solid grounding in the law while continuing to develop as people and leaders. 

--Mark Berman
NixonPeabody LLP


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