But despite the wardrobe of custom suits and a rack of pink and teal neckties from a Martha's Vineyard clothier that proudly caters to the preppy crowd, Kerry strove to present an everyman persona, notably to embassy staff.
He recalled his time growing up as a foreign service officer's child in post-World War II Europe. He promised to fight for funding for them even as budget cuts kick in.
"When I was the son of a foreign service officer and went to another country, and changed schools, I didn't really know where I was, and wasn't too sure why," he told employees at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, after pulling about two dozen of their offspring onto the dais with him to pose for pictures.
"And, I'll tell you folks, you put up with a lot in that respect," he said. "I know what it means to be in this great endeavor."
After nearly falling off the stage in an embassy reception room in Rome, Kerry regaled those assembled with a story about how he and the current U.S. ambassador to Italy decades ago bought a broken-down London taxi and drove through Europe with post-adolescent gusto.
"I think we left London one night at midnight and went to the ferry and went across to France and went down through France and Spain and then down into Italy and had a great adventure, running with the bulls in Pamplona and all those crazy things you do when you're 18 years old," he recalled.
A little more than a stone's throw from the Vatican on the day Pope Benedict XVI became the first pontiff to retire in 600 years, Kerry — a practicing Roman Catholic — joked about a friend who had teased him with this made-up headline: "Kerry Arrives; Pope Goes."
In Paris, where his mother, Rosemary, of the wealthy Forbes clan, was born and later worked as a nurse's aide during World War II before fleeing the city on a bicycle as the Nazis marched into the city in June 1940, Kerry hinted at youthful fun in the City of Light.
"I spent, or misspent, a night or two of my youth here in this city," he said with a roguish grin. "I will not tell you about wandering around Paris all night long just to live it and feel it."
Now, decades later, a man whose entire life appears to have been prologue to being secretary of state is wrapping up a diplomatic dash that has taken him to nine countries in 10 days.
He has his diplomatic passport back and seems ready to use it.
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