Washington (CNN)You can see it in everything he attempts to do around the globe, every conflict he wades into, every crisis he refuses to concede. And as John Kerry prepares to step down as secretary of state next month, he will carry it with him just as he has for 50 years: a deep-seated belief that America — and, indeed, he — can solve some of the world’s thorniest problems with the right mix of politics, diplomacy, perseverance and personal charm.
For better and worse, Kerry never gives up, even when everyone around him thinks he should.
He is an indefatigable optimist, a warrior — occasionally quixotic, always gung ho — who refuses to stop until he’s made every last phone call, bent every last ear, appealed to every last world leader who might help him in his quest.
Interviews with Kerry and more than two dozen US and foreign diplomats, State Department aides, current and former senators and foreign policy experts over the course of eight months paint a picture of a modern-day leader whose reliance on personal outreach and diplomacy harks back to an earlier era. At his core, Kerry is a throwback, an old-fashioned statesman who likes to get to know his adversaries, to turn them into friends.
“I find the word respect is something that comes up frequently in my conversations around the world,” Kerry told CNN during an interview as the presidential campaign was unfolding. “People think sometimes that we are arrogant or we just think our way is the only way and so forth. And I believe in our way and I trust it, but I don’t think you can just shove it at somebody. I think you have to have a conversation. I think you have to work through things. And I have found that respecting people, listening to people, working with people, creating a relationship is a far better way to try and get something done, than (to) just walk into the room and say this is what you have to do, now do it. That doesn’t work very well in diplomacy.”
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