|Joseph P Kennedy III on the campaign trail|
When it comes to politics, regardless of possessing a famous name, you can’t fake it when it comes to the red meat: mixing with, chatting to and addressing people, solving their problems.
That was the way with many of the offspring of the Kennedy family, who were ill fitted for political offices despite the incredible family history.
That was no knock on them. As Brendan Behan remarked, “Genius does not come in litters” and following in the footsteps of Jack, Robert, and Teddy Kennedy was surely the most difficult political undertaking in the world.
Inevitably, there was disappointment and regret that the Kennedy dynasty seemed at an end, especially when Patrick, Teddy’s son, stepped down from Congress in 2010 and ended an unbroken run back to 1947 when John F. Kennedy became a congressman.
But now comes a young Kennedy who is ready to restore the legacy. Joe Kennedy III is running for Barney Frank’s seat in the 4th district in Massachusetts and looks like a sure thing as the polls have him far ahead.
The grandson of Robert Kennedy, son of former Congressman Joe, will reignite the Kennedy name in national politics and I have strong suspicions this guy will go a lot further than the congressman.
I had the occasion to meet Joe, now 32, last week at our “Irish New England Leaders” awards held at the Irish Consulate in Boston – and I came away very impressed.
He was the winner of our Young Leader award and according to Consul General Michael Lonergan who hosted the evening, he was the first Kennedy clan member to come to the consulate.
While it is always difficult to size someone up in a brief meeting, Joe Kennedy strikes me as a natural politician, which was certainly not the case with many of his relatives.
When he got up to speak at our event, I was even more impressed.
He threw away his notes, spoke eloquently about his Irish heritage and drew the crowd in with his recitation of what his family history of commitment to the poor and the needy had meant to him.
“I believe this country was founded on a simple idea: that every person deserves to be treated fairly, by each other and by their government,” might sound clichéd when coming from someone else, but given the family history and the fact that two of his family predecessors gave their lives for those very sentiments, it came across as genuine.
He has walked the walk too, spending two years in the Peace Corps (he is a fluent Spanish speaker), working for free legal aid in Harvard, and developing a reputation as a crusading assistant district attorney.
Don’t look for any scandal allegations circling around this redheaded Kennedy either. His strongest drink is coffee, he’s engaged to his college sweetheart and his social life is said to be as tame as some of his relatives were wild.
There will be great expectations and outsized publicity when he arrives in Congress, as he surely will. But this Kennedy is hardly likely to have the bright lights or the family reputation turn his head.
There is a lot to like about young Joe Kennedy and the feeling of a new era in America’s most famous political dynasty is real. It will be fascinating to watch.