The Kennedy Legacy

Not just politics as usual

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend


July 4, 1951

'We acknowledge the pain and the loss. We develop rituals – religious services, music, funerals and wakes – where friends gather, hug one another, cry together and share stories and laughs. And we remember. I don’t like the saying, “Time heals all wounds.” It is not true. Years later, people can still be terribly sad and miss their mother, father, child, sibling, friend. Scars remain unhealed.'

The eldest child of Ethel and Robert F. Kennedy, and the eldest grandchild of Rose and  Joseph Kennedy, Kathleen at first didn’t appear to be destined for political office. She graduated from Harvard University and earned her law degree at the University of New Mexico.

After her marriage to David Townsend in 1973, her political involvement consisted of working for her uncle Ted’s senatorial campaigns as well as local candidates. After a move to a Republican stronghold in David’s home state of Maryland,  she decided to run for Congress in 1984, an election she lost. 
She then worked as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Justice Department. In 1994 gubernatorial candidate Parris Glendening chose her as his running mate. Their team won and Kathleen became Maryland’s first female lieutenant governor. During her two terms, she concentrated on education, healthcare, and anti-crime measures. She ran for governor of Maryland in 2002, but lost that election to Republican Robert Ehrlich, Jr.

Kathleen Townsend founded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. She has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland. Before becoming lieutenant governor, she founded the Maryland Student Service Alliance and was instrumental in making Maryland the first state to require high school community service. She was the former chairperson of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation and is on the board of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.