Name: John Forbes Kerry
Birth date: December 11, 1943
Education: Bachelor's degree, Yale University, 1966; law degree, Boston
Military Service: Navy, 1966-1970; Naval Reserves, 1972-1978
Career: Assistant district attorney, Middlesex County, 1977-1979;
Elected office Massachusetts lieutenant governor, 1982-84; U.S.
senator, elected 1984
Family: Wife, Teresa Heinz; first marriage ended in divorce in 1988; two
daughters from first marriage and three stepsons from second marriage
Quote: "George Bush's vision does not live up to the America I enlisted
in the Navy to defend, the America I have fought for in the Senate, and
the America that I hope to lead as president."
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Long before he joined the U.S. Senate, John Kerry made a name for himself by testifying before a Senate committee as a Vietnam veteran.
It was in 1971 that Kerry, then 27, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to speak out against U.S. policy in Vietnam.
His stance drew attention both because of his military record -- he had served as an officer in the Navy and had been awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple hearts -- and his background. Kerry was a Yale University graduate, his mother came from the prominent Forbes family, and his father was in the Army Air Corps in World War II.
"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Kerry asked the senators, a line that drew widespread notice and commentary at the time.
Today, Kerry, 60, is serving his fourth term in the U.S. Senate and is the junior senator from Massachusetts. And he is seeking the Democratic 2004 nomination for president.
"This campaign is about giving our country back its future and its truth," Kerry said in a March 14 speech in California, "about making America safer, stronger and more secure, about who is ready to lead America in the right direction."
Kerry's first foray into politics was not successful. He lost a 1972 bid for Congress.
After attending law school, he began his public career in 1976 as a prosecutor in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Organized crimes was one of his targets.
In 1982, he was elected Massachusetts lieutenant governor. In 1984 he was first elected to the U.S. Senate.
In both of those elections, notes The Almanac of American Politics, he upset a favored Democratic rival for the party's nomination.
Kerry's voting record is generally liberal, similar to that of his more senior colleague, Edward Kennedy. Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal political group, gave Kerry an 85 percent rating in 2002 and a 95 percent rating in 2001. Kennedy, by comparison, got 100 percent in both years.
In the Senate, Kerry has taken the lead on several investigations, including probes of banking scandals and an examination on whether there were any Americans being held as prisoners of war in Vietnam. The POW investigation found "no compelling evidence" that any remained.
Kerry also has made education a priority in the Senate, sometimes -- as described by The Almanac of American Politics -- parting company with fellow Democrats on issues such as teacher tenure.
Kerry voted against committing U.S. troops in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, but he supported the October congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.
Even so, Kerry has emerged as a harsh critic of the current Bush administration's Iraq policy, drawing unflattering comparisons with U.S. policy in Vietnam. He has faulted Bush for not working more closely with other allies on Iraq and said the administration lacks a coherent plan on "winning the peace."
Kerry is married to Teresa Heinz Kerry and has two daughters by a previous marriage. His wife is the widow of GOP Sen. John Heinz of Pennsylvania and has an estimated fortune of $600 million.
Kerry underwent surgery for a cancerous prostate in February, but he returned to the campaign trail within weeks with a clean bill of health from his doctors.