Love ’em or hate ’em, the Kennedys have long been a fixture on our nation’s political scene. The clan patriarch, millionaire Joseph Kennedy was the first chairman of the SEC and later ambassador to the UK. His sons, Jack, Bobby and Teddy were all Senators and presidential candidates. There have been other Kennedy family members, such as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Sargent Shriver, who were also prominent political figures. But there hasn’t been a Kennedy family member serving in a visible political role for some time now, since Sen. Teddy Kennedy died in 2009.
That will likely change. Joseph P. Kennedy III, the grandson of Bobby Kennedy, is standing for election in Massachusett’s 4th Congressional district, currently held by Barney Frank, who is retiring after serving continuously since 1981. He looks like a Kennedy, with the chiseled profile, an unruly mop of red hair, and an ease amongst voters that seems to come part and parcel with the Kennedy name. He’s a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Law (of course), and he’s dedicated himself to community service and also worked as a prosecutor in Middlesex County.
But he’s not resting on his laurels. He’s never exuded a sense of entitlement. Quite the opposite. He’s publicly stated that despite being a Kennedy, he’s bent on winning the September primary on his merits, and his campaign, both in fundraising and appearances, is a testament to that. He demonstrates a natural connection with district voters, and has been known to take questions from Latino constituents in Spanish, answering fluently.
I know that in a republic (note the small R) we shouldn’t have a system of political dynasties, but the fact of the matter is that we do. Despite the tragedies and occasional missteps that Kennedy family members have had to endure, I think that they exemplify much of what makes this country great, namely an irrepressible sense of optimism in the potential that they sense amongst its people. So, while we may have gone a few years without having a Kennedy on Capitol Hill to watch, I have a feeling that’ll soon change. Watch this kid, he’s going places.