John Kerry





President George Bush is not likely to forget the spirited challenge he had to overcome to win a second term in the White House. In the months running up to the 2004 election, there were moments when it seemed he would be packing his bags and waving goodbye to the Oval Office.



His opponent, John Kerry, led an impassioned and intense political campaign that inspired record number of Americans to head for their polling stations. In the end it wasn't enough to win the presidency, but there is little doubt the statuesque Bostonian will continue to be a potent force both within the Democratic Party and US politics at large. As his military record proves, the Massachusetts Senator is not the kind of man who shies away from life's challenges. Indeed his reputation as a war hero was one of the main reasons his party chose him to contest the presidency. While George Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard, which meant he was exempted from service in Vietnam, John Kerry was in the thick of action in the notorious Mekong Delta.

The gunboat captain was wounded three times before he returned to his homeland and became a leading figure in the anti-war movement. This reputation for both bravery and reserve made him particularly attractive to voters who felt his political opponents were too gung-ho. But John F Kerry is no "peacenik", having supported military action in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Haiti.

While his name might suggest Irish roots, the 6ft 4in politician, who was born on December 11, 1943, is proud to be a product of America's melting pot. His mother was a Forbes, one of America's most respectable families, while his father was a diplomat. The name Kerry was in fact adopted by his grandfather, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, in 1907.

John spent most of his youth on the move, as his father's career took the family from posting to posting. The athletic youngster spent several years at a boarding school in Switzerland, before enrolling in one of New Hampshire's most prestigious private institutions and then Yale University. As could be expected of a legislator, he studied law at the Ivy League college, where he, like George Bush Jr, joined the elitist Skull And Bones Club.

His emotional life has also reflected the fact that, despite his left-of-centre politics, John Kerry is very much a member of society's establishment. After splitting with his first wife, Philadelphia heiress Julia Thorne, he walked down the aisle with Teresa Heinz, who had inherited her first husband's canned food fortune.

America prefers its elected leaders to be family men, and as a father of five this is a prerequisite John more than fulfils. Indeed many analysts say his only weakness on the campaign trail was, ironically, his presentation. In an age when sound bites and slogans reign supreme, John Kerry was better known for reasoned, balanced arguments.

His time as a district attorney, when he earned a reputation for locking up mobsters, proved he's a man who knows how to win. But as he demonstrated when his opponent was re-elected President on November 3 2004, he also has the moral character to accept defeat with grace and serenity.
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