As more and more focus is being placed on who will emerge as the next leaders of the Democratic Party, the familiar name of Kennedy is being mentioned more frequently as a possible contender for a term in the White House.
Congressman Joe Kennedy III, Representative of the 4th District of Massachusetts, in particular, has seen his star rise since President Trump’s inauguration, thanks to his stance on immigration. Kennedy uses his family’s own migration history as an example of its importance to America. He has previously used Ireland’s Great Hunger as a means of illustrating the horrors faced by some immigrants and refugees in today’s world, placing the plight of these people in a scenario that anti-immigration Irish Americans may be able to understand.
“Yes, it was now a century and a half ago. But my family was in a similar position as those folks fleeing famine and destitution,” he announced at the March Friends of Ireland luncheon, a tradition started by his Uncle Ted Kennedy to allow for a bipartisan meeting with the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) to reaffirm US support for Ireland.
“It wasn’t a war zone in Ireland, but it certainly wasn’t good, either. That history is repeating itself today. And it just strikes me as, yes, on the one hand times have changed and things have changed. On the other hand humanity hasn’t changed all that much.
“And the fact that we’re willing to say, ‘Hey, it was okay for me but it’s not okay for you,’ given the destitution and strife that people are going through? We can do better than that,” he concluded.
The speech saw him move away from his normally more gentle attempts to work with Republicans instead of working against them, a strategy that saw him turn down the chance to be chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as he did not want to be responsible for attempts to oust Republicans from Congress.
Immigration is not the only issue that has seen his generally more laid-back approach tested, however, as he faced off with his fellow Irish Catholic Paul Ryan on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act that very same month. The moral outrage he feels at the current government and the fears he has for the future of the Presidency have encouraged him to speak out more, he said in a recent interview with Town and Country Magazine.
“With all due respect to our speaker, he and I must have read different scripture,” Kennedy said, in reference to Ryan.
“The one I read calls on us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, and to comfort the sick. It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful but by how we care for the least among us.
“This is not an act of mercy,” he continued of the repeal of ObamaCare. “It is an act of malice.”
This speech, although only a minute in length, pushed the 36-year-old Kennedy into the public eye in a way nothing else had, earning him over 10 million views and seeing the views on his Facebook videos steadily climbing from an average of 13,500 last year to an average of one million in 2017.
The lawyer, a grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, is still far from revealing whether he sees himself sitting in the Oval Office at some point in the future, especially after his recent announcement that his wife Lauren Anne Birchfield is expecting another baby, a sibling for 18-month-old Eleanor.
For now, Kennedy remains dedicated to his district where he hosts “tour 34” each term, visiting the 34 towns in the region to meet with his constituents and hear their problems.
“You can see the damn Supreme Court from my window,” he said. “And it says, ‘Equal justice under the law.’ And we’re not anywhere close to it.”
Arriving on the scene as the first new Kennedy to serve on Capitol Hill since the death of Ted Kennedy – a family chain since 1946 – Joe Kennedy was unaware that he'd grown up with an exceptionally privileged childhood. He took it for granted that his six-term serving father had to fly off to Congress for the week every Monday evening and that he had to attend prestigious schools such as Buckingham Browne & Nichols and Stanford.
It wouldn’t have helped, of course, that he was not even the most famous family name on campus by the time he reached Stanford – Chelsea Clinton was also a student there at the time.
It wasn’t until he joined the Peace Corps, founded by his great uncle JFK, that he realized he was in a position that none of those he met from those desperate communities would ever enjoy.
“It was cold and beautiful and breathtaking and poor,” he told Town and Country Mag.
“I mean, like dirt poor. And amazing. Incredibly generous people.
“There’s nothing those kids, those babies or young men I was working with—there was nothing they could ever do that was going to get them to Harvard Law School,” Kennedy continued.
“I was no more talented, I was no smarter, I was no better than any of them. I just had the resources and support and platform. It was a struggle for them to make sure they could turn the lights on. I would not be here at all but for that experience. I draw on it every single day.”
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