Joseph P. Kennedy III, great-nephew of the late President John F Kennedy, is making a run for Congress. With a last name like Kennedy, many believe the congressional bid should be a breeze, but Joe’s life thus far has proved that he is willing to work hard, Kennedy or not, for the bid.
He is also unusual, in that he does not drink and even when a freshman at Stanford, he refused to drink as part of a hazing ritual and drank milk instead. His nickname has been ‘the milkman” ever since
In a profile on Joe Kennedy, Sally Jacobs for Boston.com writes of his past and where it could lead him in the future. While, yes, he has a politically famous and adored last name, Joe Kennedy is looking to get to Congress on his own terms.
Of his famous family, Kennedy remains vague, yet loving - “It’s a huge family. It’s crazy, it’s wonderful, it’s vibrant and it’s exciting." Kennedy is, however, aware firsthand of the strains that a political life can have on a family. His parents divorced due to his father being away for so often in Washington DC. His mother often showed signs of resentment of getting caught up with the Kennedy fame.
Kennedy himself, however, announced his own engagement within the past few months, to former classmate and Southern California native, Lauren Birchfield.
While Kennedy insists that going into politics didn’t appeal to him until later in life, others saw it coming a mile away. “We always joked that Joe was going to run for president,’’ recalled Matt Twomey, who played on the Stanford lacrosse team alongside Kennedy during their college days. “With that last name of his and the fact that he didn’t drink, it just seemed obvious.’’
Kennedy has never been a drinker. “Some see it as a sign of his determination to steer clear of the demons of drugs and alcohol that other family members have wrestled with - in some cases fatally. Others consider it a reflection of a singular self-confidence,” writes Sally Jacobs for Boston.com.
“It’s just a personal preference," Kennedy said in an interview. “It’s really just something I have never felt an attraction to."
The first of a dozen or so Kennedy cousins to get into politics, Kennedy has a lot riding on his shoulders. “If he is successful, he could renew the luster of a somewhat tarnished family name. If he is not, he will fuel critics’ contentions that the family has exhausted its political potency,” writes Jacobs.
As Kennedy puts it, “I’m extremely proud of my family’s record of public service to Massachusetts and the nation. But it’s my name on the ballot. I will stand on my own, and I only ask the voters of the 4th district to listen to what I have to say and to make a choice.’’
Following his graduation from Stanford, Joe Kennedy joined the Peace Corps, a uniquely American program founded by his great-uncle President John F Kennedy. Joe Kennedy, a fluent Spanish speaker, served for two years in the Dominican Republic.
“You’re asking them to make a huge investment in their future, back-breaking work,’’ says Kennedy, who led local groups in the Dominican Republic to become more tourist-friendly in hopes of becoming a more attractive destination. “And, I’m saying, yeah but trust me, you’ll get something in the future.’’ Perhaps that moment can serve as an inkling as to what kind of leader he could potentially become in Congress and beyond.
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2009, Kennedy signed on as an assistant prosecutor in the Cape & Islands district attorney’s office. “Each of these cases as a problem to solve, and not a person to prosecute,” said Kennedy on his attitudes towards working there. “Your job is not to just hide behind recommending a maximum sentence on every case and say, hey, I’m tough on crime. It’s to solve that problem. You’ve got a brain in there. Use it.’’
Only time will tell now how the public will react to another Kennedy in the political arena.
“Look, some people may have a romance with the Kennedys and will be hopeful for Joe,’’ said Paul G. Kirk, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who filled Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat after his death. “Some will be dismissive and say the page of history has turned. But most people are realistic and they want to take the measure of this kid.’’