Podcast: North Andover’s Johnson Discusses his ‘Window Seat on the World’ with John Kerry

Secretary of State John F. Kerry arrives. (Glen Johnson photographs.)

(Additional photographs below.)

North Andover’s Glen Johnson has truly had a “Window Seat on the World,” witnessing alongside former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, the unfolding of history.

Four years ago, Johnson, who now serves as chief of communications and external affairs to Essex County District Attorney Paul F. Tucker, committed his adventures—from the Vatican to the Kremlin and London to Baghdad—to his book, “Window Seat on the World: My Travels with the Secretary of State.” The book remains topical and fascinating, as Johnson explained during a recent appearance on WHAV’s “Win for Breakfast.”

He explained after graduating from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc., he initially observed newsmakers as a reporter in Salem and Lowell and the Associated Press. That all changed when he was working as a political reporter for the Boston Globe and “got the call.”

“It was a very familiar voice at the other end of my cell phone, and he asked if we could have an ‘off the record’ conversation. He made his pitch, and offer, and I went home that night and talked with my wife and two sons about it and the consensus was it would be an impossible thing to turn down,”  Johnson recalled.

During his time on the job, he and Secretary Kerry visited all seven continents, 91 countries, and traveled 1.5 million miles.

“As we traveled around the world, I jotted down bits of color about different things I saw, or different things he said, or what it was like to be in some of these meetings that we were in. When I got home, I spent the next 18 months writing a book about it,” he said.

During the course of his travels, he met many world leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

“Shook his hand! It’s not one of those things you really contemplate. You’re there, he comes in the room and goes down line. It was fascinating to go into the Kremlin, to be there, and it’s his fashion, he made the secretary of state wait. We waited hours for him to come in. That’s just his form of passive aggressiveness. He puts you on defense by making you wait, to meet with him on his terms. But he came in finally and had the meeting. Famously, had this icy stare, a man of few words, but despite all the evidence to the contrary spoke English and understood everything that was said to him. It was a really fascinating experience to be part of and really interesting to be in that hallowed ground, the Kremlin and Red Square and all that, and see it firsthand,” he explained.

Among the negotiations Kerry undertook over those four years were dealing with Iran over its nuclear weapons program and brokering climate change accords, including the 2015 Paris Agreement.

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