UMass students get behind-the-scenes glimpse into Kerry State Dept.

(Conor Dawson/ the Connector)

Conor Dawson
Connector Editor

On Thursday, Sept. 26, students were given the opportunity to go to a book signing for Glen Johnson’s new book “Window Seat on the World.” The book chronicles his time serving as U.S. deputy assistant secretary of State for strategic communications from 2013 to 2017.

The event featured Johnson and former Secretary of State John Kerry and was moderated by CNN host John Berman. The main focus of the event was on Johnson’s new book, but they covered a range of issues from the upcoming impeachment inquiry, climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.

“When the Secretary called he said, ‘I want you to go everywhere I go,’ and away we went,” said Johnson. “When he was working I was working – and he was always working.” Johnson said his primary job was to plan events for Secretary Kerry. He used his media background to better plan where the press crew would be set up, and this allowed them to take pictures such as arrival shots of Secretary Kerry arriving at various locations around the world.

Johnson talked about Secretary Kerry’s “hometown diplomacy,” which was an approach by Kerry to get diplomats to Boston for talks, out of the confines of Washington. Kerry would often have them over for meals at his house, which made a strong impression on foreign leaders such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Johnson took a picture towards the beginning of his time in the State Department of Secretary Kerry taking a picture of the Brandenburg Gate, which was significant because when Kerry was much younger, he almost caused an international incident by riding underneath it during the time Berlin was still divided post-World War II. The chief of staff said to Johnson, “that’s why you’re there, and this is what we need. We need you to help take people there and understand what these moments are.” Johnson said that following that exchange he “went down into the basement of the State Department, got a camera, and started taking pictures.” From that point on, Johnson became the official travel photographer

Johnson said his goal was to “create the best archive any Secretary of State had ever had” and that he took over 100,000pictures of Secretary Kerry during his time in office.

“Looking out the window of the plane you were never quite sure what you’d see. That’s the genesis for the title of my book,” said Johnson. “I sat on the window seat. I looked out and one time it was the Swiss Air Force practicing intercepts on our plane.

“One time I looked out and saw the hook of Provincetown. Another time we saw Santorini. The pyramids, right at the edge of Cairo. Mount Everest.”

Johnson travelled to all seven continents with Secretary Kerry and visited 91 countries during that time.

Johnson said Secretary Kerry never kept secrets from him, and his in his time with the foreign service he sat in on the Iran nuclear deal, spent time in the Vatican, and even travelled to Antarctica. Johnson’s book is available both in print and digitally.

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