U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recalled for young Germans Tuesday when he snuck out of the American embassy in divided postwar Berlin at age 12 for a clandestine bicycle ride into the Soviet-controlled eastern part of the city.
‘I saw the difference between east and west,’ said Kerry, who had lived in Berlin in 1954 with his family and American diplomat father. ‘I saw the people wearing darker clothing. There were fewer cars. I didn’t feel the energy or the movement.’
When he returned home, his father was livid, he said.
He ‘got very upset with me and said: “You could have created an international incident. I could have lost my job.” So I lost my passport, and I was grounded and I never made another trip like that,’ Kerry said.
Today, Kerry said: ‘I never forgot and now it’s vanished. Now, so many other countries have followed with this spirit of giving life to people’s individual hopes and aspirations.’
Kerry addressed a town hall meeting Tuesday in a packed Internet cafe during a nine-country dash through Europe and the Middle East. The trip is Kerry’s first as secretary of state.
At the town hall, Kerry urged Germans to be tolerant, noting that in America, ‘you have a right to be stupid.’
‘In America, you have a right to be stupid, if you want to be,’ he said. ‘And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be. And we tolerate that – we somehow make it through that.