By Jill Dougherty
John Kerry, the new secretary of state, jokingly calls himself a "recovering politician."
After 28 years in the Senate, he now finds himself "sort of walking a new line," as he says, not allowed to mix politics with international policy.
But Kerry does see a direct connection between what the State Department does abroad and its impact at home.
"This is not just about over there; this is about here," he told staff of the U.S. Agency for International Development on Friday.
"This is about how you build the societies that offer us the market opportunities so that we can have the trade and investment and the options of creating the jobs here at home and the goods that Americans can buy," he said.
Following a meeting with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton on Thursday, he touted the benefits of cooperation between the United States and Europe.
"We can create jobs. We will have greater market clout as a consequence of that," Kerry said.
At times, Kerry sounds more like a chief executive than a diplomat:
"What I want to do is work with you in the smartest way we can together to get the best return on this investment for the American taxpayer that we can get, the most accountable, the most transparent, the most efficient. "
Kerry aides tell CNN to look for a heavy focus on economic diplomacy, saying he looks to connect diplomacy with daily life and the American economy.
Aides say he "wants to talk to" people at home about their connection to his work.
This may come through, for instance, in a speech before he heads out on a foreign trip.
Kerry already is planning to deliver his first major speech on February 20 at the University of Virginia.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says it's the first in a series of domestic addresses in which he plans to discuss "how a relatively small investment in our foreign policy and diplomatic efforts results in a big return for America's economy and security."
The theme also aims to show how "American businesses and citizens have a stake in the ongoing debate about our nation's budget priorities," Nuland said.
Kerry's predecessor, Hillary Clinton, also made that link between America's diplomatic actions abroad and their effect on jobs at home.
But several studies have shown that many Americans feel the United States spends too much on foreign aid. Although it totals less than 1% of the federal budget, many think it's more like 25%.
This week Kerry said he used to joke that "a senator who stands up in today's world and tries to make the argument for foreign aid probably ought to have a mental evaluation."
"It's tough," he admits. "But I've got news for you: We're going to do it. We're going to continue to fight for this connection because it is such a paltry, tiny component of what we do overall, compared to the military budget, compared to all of our budget."
Kerry wants Americans to "connect the dots" between America's security and the State Department's efforts abroad and he points to Egypt and other countries in the Middle East, with huge numbers of young people and fragile economies.
"If we don't build health capacity or education capacity or governance capacity with those folks," he says, "then everybody here knows how ripe those people will be for someone to walk in with a religious extremist point of view and strap a suicide vest on them and send them out to do harm because they don't have anything better to offer to the world."