BERLIN: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told young Germans on Tuesday of his adventures as a 12-year-old son of an American diplomat in divided postwar Berlin, and urged them to be true to their ideals and values as Europe struggles to emerge from economic doldrums and deal with the threat of terrorism.
Speaking at a town hall meeting Tuesday, Kerry spoke a few sentences of passable German to the delight of a crowd in a packed Internet cafe before regaling the audience with tales of his boyhood in Berlin in 1954.
He drew laughter when he said a clandestine bicycle ride into Soviet-run east Berlin had badly upset his father, who took away his diplomatic passport and grounded him for almost causing an international incident.
Kerry urged Germans to be tolerant of all points of view and noted that in America "you have a right to be stupid." He said tolerance of unpopular, offensive or otherwise objectionable views was a virtue and "something worth fighting for."
Kerry also took the opportunity to plug a New England clothing line after one audience member complimented him on his pink tie. A graduate of the noted St. Paul's School in New Hampshire and Yale University, Kerry extolled the sartorial virtues of Vineyard Vines, a Connecticut purveyor of - in its own description - "preppy" clothes that has a pink whale for a logo.
"I don't own any stock in the company," he said to laughter.