Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press at the State Department in Washington on September 17, 2015.
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press at the State Department in Washington on September 17, 2015.
PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Story highlights

"Democracy relies on free speech," Kerry said

Trump has sought to shake off political blowback from Russia the probe

(CNN) —  

Former Secretary of State John Kerry used a commencement address Wednesday night to rip the Trump administration, telling graduates the US is not living in “a normal time.”

“Democracy relies on free speech. Yes, say anything you want, but it relies even more on the speech being truthful. It is the truth after all that sets us free,” the former Democratic presidential nominee said Wednesday at the Harvard Kennedy School graduation. “And the truth is – no, this is not a normal time.”

“It’s not normal to see a president of the United States decrying ’so-called judges.’ It’s not normal for the leader of the country that invented the First Amendment to routinely degrade and even threaten journalists,” Kerry added. “And no, it’s not normal to see the head of the FBI fired summarily because he was investigating connections between Russia and the presidential campaign of the very man who fired him.”

President Donald Trump has sought to shake off the damaging political blowback from continuing investigations into his campaign’s relationship with Russia following reports that he fired former FBI Director James Comey because of the ongoing probe.

Kerry said America’s current political conversations very often sound like those that occur in countries the State Department warns Americans not to visit.

“I’ve been asked, ‘What is the secret to having a real impact on government?’ Well, it’s recently changed. I used to say, ‘Either run for office or get a degree from the Harvard Kennedy School,’” he said. “But with this White House, I’d say, ‘Buy Rosetta Stone and learn Russian.’”