Posts tagged Joe Kennedy
Posts tagged Joe Kennedy
By James W. Graham, author of Victura: the Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea
Rose Fitzgerald’s father had doubts about Joseph Kennedy, but it’s a good thing she didn’t listen
100 years ago, on Oct. 7, 1914, John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, having just finished his term as mayor of Boston, walked his daughter Rose down the aisle to marry a guy he had doubts about. Sure, the bridegroom was then the youngest bank president in America, but Rose hadn’t dated around enough.
The man waiting at the altar was Joseph Kennedy, and their wedding probably influenced the course of American history more than any before or since, thanks to the fruit of their union. Of their nine children, three became United States senators: Edward, known as Ted; Robert, who also became U.S. attorney general; and Jack — John F. Kennedy — who became a president of no small consequence.
The other children round out the epic American story. The oldest, Joe Jr., died a hero’s death in World War II. Kathleen married the heir to a Duke but lost him in the war less than a month after losing her big brother. Kathleen died at 28 in a plane crash in France. Patricia married a Hollywood leading man, and Jean married a shrewd businessman who became a trusted financial and campaign adviser to the family. Rosemary was intellectually disabled, which led sister Eunice to pursue a lifelong calling that effectively redefined popular understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities through such programs as the Special Olympics.
Joe and Rose were not a perfect couple by most standards. He was unfaithful, for years carrying on with film star Gloria Swanson. As parents, though, they did something indisputably right.
Of course, their children had the best education then available, from boarding schools to colleges like Harvard, Stanford and Princeton. Joe famously led spirited dinner-table discussions of public affairs and drove them to fierce competitiveness in sport. With Rose’s Catholic faith as moral compass and Joe’s money as enabler, the children followed lives dedicated to public service.
And then there was sailing.
When he was president, JFK said privately that the family’s reputation for competitiveness, and his father’s insistence on winning at everything, was often overstated — except in that one arena. Most of the children were obsessive about sailing and winning races. Their parents bought them mostly small boats at first. When they became a family of ten, they named one of them Tenovus. With the birth of the youngest, Ted, the family named another boat,Onemore. In 1932, Joe and Rose bought their children a 25-ft. boat that Jack named Victura. The 15-year-old, a mediocre student of Latin, chose a word that meant “about to conquer.”
Jack and his big brother Joe later teamed up on the Harvard sailing team to win a major intercollegiate regatta. Not long after, they both went into the Navy, where Joe Jr. died and Jack narrowly survived a sinking of the boat under his command. Fifty years later, Ted said it was Jack’s experience on Victura that saved his life and most of his crew. Jack sailed Victura on Nantucket Sound through his presidency. Bobby and Ethel loved sailing it so much that a painting of the two of them sailing Victura hangs to this very day on the dining room wall of Ethel’s home at Hyannis Port. The painting was one of three of that boat, commissioned in 1963 by Kennedy sisters as Christmas presents for their three brothers. Jack did not live to receive his.
When Ted died in 2009, among the many eulogists were four who all told stories of sailing with Ted on Victura. By then 77 years had passed since Joe and Rose bought it. All the children of Joe and Rose, and the Kennedys who came after, told and still tell stories of sailing together. But the sailing was nothing, really, compared to the other things they did.
Before Jack died, he and his brothers loved talking about the space program that got us to the moon. Astronauts were sailing a “new ocean,” said Jack. Eunice campaigned tirelessly for her brothers and successfully made the capabilities of people with disabilities a cause all the family embraced, to this day. Now, together, they work on environmental causes, human rights and children’s interests.
To this day, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Joe and Rose continue to pursue public service and, yes, sailing. They race boats identical to Victura, even taking them the 30 miles between Nantucket and the very same moorings their grandparents used all those years ago.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III has launched a state political action committee to help out fellow Massachusetts Democrats, a move that could help lay the groundwork for a future bid for governor or other statewide office, the Herald has learned.
Kennedy registered the PAC with his famous family name, Joe Kennedy III Mass PAC, last month, according to reports with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
The purpose of the PAC is “to further the goals of the Democratic party,” according to the filing statement.
Kennedy’s PAC should stir more speculation about the freshman congressman’s political future. Massachusetts Democrats have raved about his performance in office, and many expect him to at least consider a run for governor in four years if Attorney General Martha Coakley loses to Republican Charlie Baker next month.
Kennedy’s PAC allows him to give to legislative and municipal candidates in Massachusetts. The donations could help Kennedy build a network of supporters that includes mayors and lawmakers, an important step in any run for governor.
“Anybody who’s smart and wants to run for statewide office would do this,” one prominent Democratic strategist said.
A Republican strategist added: “It’s easy to make friends when you’re giving out money.”
Kennedy, who is running unopposed for a second term, raised his national profile last year by launching a federal political action committee, 4MA PAC, to support Democratic candidates for Congress. That PAC has doled out $55,200 to Democrats in this election cycle.
But it’s unusual for a congressman to form a state PAC, according to political strategists.
The only other member of the delegation with one is U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, but it has raised no money this year.
With the help of his last name, Kennedy has the potential to raise substantial sums of money quickly. He has raked in more than $6.5 million in the last three years to fund his first congressional race in 2012 and his re-election bid this year.
Kennedy’s state PAC hasn’t done any fundraising yet, but a spokeswoman said the congressman will raise money over the next month to boost local and state Democrats in tough races.
“Like many of his colleagues in public office, Joe is committed to helping good candidates across Massachusetts and building strong partnerships between local, state and federal lawmakers,” spokeswoman Emily Kaufman said.
While the Kennedy family once dominated Massachusetts politics, the Corner Office has eluded them. Kennedy III’s father, former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, planned a run for governor in 1998 but bowed out due to a rash of family scandals, including allegations of verbally abusive behavior from his first wife Sheila — the younger Kennedy’s mother — and the congressman’s late brother Michael’s affair with a teenage babysitter.
Kennedy II also decided not to run for governor in 2002 and 2006.
Joe Kennedy: “Toured the North Attleborough Fire Department before our office hours over the weekend. Honored to have the chance to thank the station’s fire fighters for working tireless to keep our community safe.”
Joseph Patrick Kennedy, the paterfamilias of the Kennedy clan, continues to be scrutinized in lengthy biographies as well as in numerous studies of his most famous progeny.
The reasons for this persistent interest are not especially difficult to understand. Kennedy’s intriguing career is well documented in print, in archival collections, in recordings, and on film. Of course, much the same can be said of the life of Senator Prescott Bush, the founder of the Bush clan. However, the Kennedy family story has taken on a unique and almost mythic quality because of the dramatic historical events which destroyed JPK’s own political ambitions and the tragedies that consumed his sons and two of his daughters.
Historian and biographer David Nasaw, the most recent scholar to take on the JPK story, was offered unrestricted access by the Kennedy family to the papers of Joseph P. Kennedy at Boston’s Kennedy Library. Nasaw insists that there were no strings attached—that he received permission to read and cite any and all materials in the JPK papers. However, he has acknowledged in a TV interview, that even after he agreed to write the book it took nearly 18 months to finalize a legal agreement between the Kennedys and the author—inevitably creating speculation about the precise nature of the issues which required such lengthy negotiations.
Joe Kennedy kicks off re-election bid in Taunton
Freshman U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III kicked off his re-election campaign yesterday in front of a roaring crowd of supporters in Taunton, sticking to his famous family’s political script of championing the poor but also lamenting congressional gridlock.
Kennedy, whose famous bloodline enshrined him as a member of an American political dynasty, surprised no one at the Sandbar Grill with his announcement that he’s seeking a second term for the 4th Congressional District seat.
“I’m thrilled to announce to all of you that I’m running for re-election … I hope that doesn’t come as a big shock to anybody,” Kennedy said to cheers and laughs. “Every person, regardless of where you were born or where you’re from, deserves to make the most out of what they got here in this country.”
He touched on his backing of raising the minimum wage, passing comprehensive immigration laws, workforce development, protecting retirement security and extending unemployment benefits.
Kennedy, who as of now does not have a Republican challenger, bemoaned some of his colleagues placing politics over their country.
“Despite the lessons learned, despite the people that you meet, despite all that comes with being a member of Congress, there are times that have been extraordinarily frustrating,” he said. “You see that good policy is often in conflict, for some, with good politics.”
Betty Regan, 67, of Medway said she believes Kennedy puts the common man over special-interest money.
“He espoused the Democratic principles, which is very important,” she said. “He really is a people’s representative. He’s not a Koch brothers’ representative.”
After his speech, Kennedy told the Herald he’s trying to build bipartisan bridges, noting he has had dinners with Tea Party congressmen, and a manufacturing bill he sponsored also has dozens of Republican sponsors. He said his legacy name has helped rather than hindered him in Washington because of the bonds his political family has built over the years.
Both Kennedy and his wife are running the Boston Marathon — he’s raising money for The One Fund Boston, she’s raising money for Boston Medical Center. Kennedy said after last year’s bombings it’s especially important to put on his running shoes.
“No terrorist act is going to take away our city and what makes our state the place that it is,” he said.
WASHINGTON — For 90 minutes, the 33-year-old rookie representative with the shock of red hair bided his time as an endless stream of senior lawmakers asked lengthy questions about the crisis in South Sudan. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III stroked his chin as he waited his turn.
Kennedy finally got time for two questions, but the long wait made him late for his next appointment.
“The joys of being a freshman in the minority,” he said with an air of self-deprecation, a shrug, and a sigh as he headed out — promptly underscoring his newbie status by making a wrong turn into a parking garage before finally locating the correct corridor.
The newest Kennedy in public life mocks his own lack of experience; casts himself as just another freshman Democrat, lower profile than most; and defers to colleagues from both parties. He is building a reputation for delving into unglamorous subjects; his favorite topic: STEM, an acronym favored by education policy wonks, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
But don’t mistake any of that for lack of ambition.
“While his name brings a special kind of cache, the thing about it is he doesn’t take that for granted and he doesn’t try to exploit it,” said Paul G. Kirk, the former chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation who replaced Edward M. Kennedy in the Senate on an interim basis.
“I think he also understands that freshman year is a listening and learning year and identifying the issues which you feel most strongly about,” he said.
JoeKIII, as he is often called, is walking amidst the sweep of Kennedy family history, which includes a great-uncle and grandfather who were assassinated and another great-uncle who served decades in the Senate. He has most directly followed his father, former representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, who at this one-year point in his political career had lashed out at the slow pace of the House.
He is experiencing some of the same frustrations as his father about the glacial pace of change but emphasizes — through his actions and words — that he will go more slowly and more quietly.
Just being a member of Congress is enough for now; no need to complicate matters. “I’m not good at the deep, introspective, on-the-couch analysis answers,” he said.
Using his first term as a quiet apprenticeship is a luxury that more vulnerable politicians might not have. After the Democratic field was largely cleared for him in the 2012 primary for Fourth Congressional District based in Brookline, Kennedy took more than 60 percent of the vote in his general election. He has yet to draw an opponent for the November 2014 election.
“It’s really important for me to do the fundamentals of this job really, really well,” Kennedy said. “And to let people know that I think the core responsibilities of a member of Congress aren’t seeking the national headlines or being the spokesperson on this issue or that issue when you just get there.”
The lobby of Kennedy’s Washington office is filled with banners for all the hometown sports teams, a Boston Strong poster, and free sample bags of Craisins. His dog Banjo, a border collie mix, is often wandering without a leash.
One has to get past the waiting room to see reminders of his family’s imprint on the nation. There are photos from his grandfather Robert Kennedy’s presidential run and the quote from his grandfather reminding him “you live on the most privileged nation on earth.”
Like his great uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy, he is trying his hardest to make some Republican friends. So unlike his fellow Massachusetts Democrats, who take pleasure in roasting the Tea Party, he holds his tongue.
“Their point of view resonated enough with the people they represent that they got elected,” he said. “And it’s, I think, extremely important for me to at the very least try to understand what that point of view is. It doesn’t mean we’re going to agree on everything. But you might find something.”
It’s a starkly different strategy from his father, Joseph P. Kennedy II, who was elected in 1986 when Democrats controlled the House and thus faced far less gridlock than today, but he nonetheless grew impatient with the imperative to “kowtow to some ladder rungs” to win power. The older Kennedy, who served a dozen years, declined an interview request.
Kennedy’s cousin, former Rhode Island congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, said some of Joe Kennedy II’s colleagues felt threatened by his aggressive style and became determined to “put him in his place.” The son’s low-key approach is no accident, he said.
“His father’s advice to me, and I’m sure it was to his son, was ‘Don’t do it the way I did it,’” Patrick Kennedy said. “In his own self-deprecating way, his father realized that he wasn’t built for that place.”
The son has so far avoided his father’s brash television persona and the breakneck national fund-raising schedule that had colleagues worried he would burn out.
“Look, I think it’s a — my dad is a high-energy guy. He’s got an executive mentality,” Kennedy said, pausing as he measured his words. “There’s no surprise that this place isn’t moving as fast as any of us would like.”
It was his father, Kennedy said, who warned him before he decided to run for office that “this can be hard. It’s a long slog.”
"Biggest fish I ever caught and Uncle Teddy tried to claim it was his!”
~ Joe Kennedy
He recalls sitting around the dinner table at his grandmother’s house listening to his aunts and uncles and older cousins debate the issues of the day. At the age of eight, he “pretty much watched”, he says. “It was one of those valuable experiences for me to listen and observe.” This would be the average experience for any child growing up in a large family. But when the family is that great American political dynasty, the Kennedys, and around the dinner table are the many children and grandchildren of the late Robert F. Kennedy, it makes the act of speaking up by one of the youngest members of the family that bit more daunting.
The exposure to these wide-ranging debates clearly rubbed off on the young Joseph P. Kennedy III, the grandson of Bobby; he is the only member of the Kennedy clan currently holding political office in the United States. “You saw how passionate people were, that even in the midst of the same family you could have a spirited debate about various issues,” Kennedy, sitting in his congressional office on Capitol Hill in Washington, says of those regular family dinners.
“We have got a big family and people were going off all over the country, all around the world doing different things. No one is shy. They all had the courage to be able to stand up and speak their minds.”
Kennedy was elected to the House of Representatives for Massachusetts ’ fourth congressional district last November, winning an impressive 61 per cent of the vote against Republican nominee Sean Bielat.
The self-effacing and intelligent 32-year-old is the son of Sheila Rauch and Joseph P Kennedy II, the second of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy’s children and himself a Democratic congressman from 1987 to 1999. Joseph P Kennedy III and his twin brother, Matt, have been immersed in politics from an early age. They were born in October 1980, around the time when his father was working on the presidential campaign of then US senator Ted Kennedy. Some of his earliest memories were of the campaign trail when his father first ran for Congress. He and his brother were six years old and enjoyed playing with campaign confetti at rallies.
“I have snapshots of that very first campaign. There are still some photographs up in my dad’s house. Both my brother and I got married last year so there were rather embarrassing photographs of us at various campaign events when we were yay tall,” he says, holding up a hand.
The freshman congressman, just two months in elected office, is deeply proud of his family’s long-standing service to public life in Massachusetts and the US. He understands the weight of the family name he carries in political office but equally he wants to plough his own furrow.
Kennedy ran an aggressive campaign last year, wearing out shoe leather meeting voters in a district spanning Brookline near Boston in the north to the southern Massachusetts coast. He says he wanted constituents to “come out and kick the tyres” – to meet him and to understand first hand his policies and values.
“It was extraordinarily important for me to give people that opportunity so they understand who they are voting for and supporting,” he says.
“I am extraordinarily proud of my family but it is important for people to know the real me and not just what they might think of when they think of various members of my family.”
Polite, eloquent and considered, Kennedy speaks with great authority and bears a striking resemblance to his grandfather. He has been busy working at his desk, despite wearing a heavily supportive sling on his right arm – the result of treatment to fix an old sporting injury. He played lacrosse while studying at Stanford University in California. A teetotal, his teammates nicknamed him “The Milkman” after one party when he matched every beer his friends drank with a glass of milk.
Kennedy studied management science and engineering at Stanford. After graduating he worked in the peace corps (founded by his great-uncle, then US president John F Kennedy, in 1961) in the Dominican Republic and East Timor. It was in East Timor that he came across Tom Hyland, the former Dublin Busdriver from Ballyfermot who became a campaigner for Asia’s poorest country – “an incredible guy”, says Kennedy.
After years of travelling, Kennedy wanted to be closer to home so he enrolled in Harvard Law School and later worked as an intern for a Republican district attorney before taking a full-time job as a prosecutor. Prosecuting cases made Kennedy look differently at every file on his desk, each one being “somebody’s life”, he says. He saw them as problems to solve rather than “another person to prosecute”, and that brought him into policy discussions about what could have been done earlier to help the person being charged. “It starts to get you looking further upstream to what caused that crime to be committed.”
In his new job, one of the biggest challenges facing Congress is the long-overdue reform of immigration laws to tackle the US’s 11 million illegal immigrants – the so-called “undocumented” of which there are thousands of Irish, including many in Kennedy’s congressional district in Massachusetts.
Kennedy’s great-uncle Ted tried and failed to push through an immigration Bill with Republican senator John McCain in 2006. But Kennedy believes there is a strong likelihood of legislation passing this time as momentum builds around broad principles on tightening border control, a pathway to citizenship, and simplifying the legal route to a visa to attract job-creating talent to the US.
“We need to get this done now. Not only do I believe it is the right thing to do morally, it is the right thing to do economically. It is the right policy decision. We have got an immigration system that I quite simply believe is broken.”
Another hot political topic is US president Barack Obama’s plans to overhaul gun ownership laws, including a ban on military-style assault weapons. Kennedy unsurprisingly supports the pressure the president is exerting on Congress to vote on the White House’s proposals; his family has experienced its own share of gun violence
“My family, yes, has a personal history with this; far too many other families have as well. I think this is something the president said very eloquently – they deserve a vote,” says Kennedy.
Passing laws through Congress is difficult when a Democratic president is continuously clashing with a House of Representatives led by Republicans, particularly over divisive budgetary issues. For a new Democratic congressman in a Republican-controlled chamber, Kennedy admits this can be “frustrating”.
“There is a party in charge here that largely wants smaller government … so fewer days in session and less legislation passed isn’t necessarily a defeat for them – that is in fact what they are looking for,” he says.
Kennedy believes government “can be a source for good” and that Congress has to “start taking on some of these problems in a real and big way”.
One of the few occasions when Democrats and Republicans put aside their differences is St Patrick’s Day. This year, Republican House speaker John Boehner will host the traditional Irish-American lunch on Capitol Hill for the Taoiseach, his visiting party and members of Congress.
Kennedy is not sure whether the congeniality that gets a small country access to the corridors of power in Washington is unique to Ireland, but it is very powerful, he says, and something he values.
“People like to be around folks who are friendly, jovial, who like to laugh and have a joke and enjoy themselves. That’s one of the great things whenever you see the St Paddy’s Day up in Boston and around the country. It is a time of joy, a time of reflection, a time of friends coming together, a time of enjoying each other’s company.”
Kennedy’s Irish heritage is “extremely important” to him, he says, acknowledging the service of his great-aunt Jean Kennedy Smith as US ambassador to Ireland, the role Ted Kennedy played in the Northern Irish peace process, and his father’s commitment to Ireland while serving in Congress. He visited Dublin a year and a half ago and is “trying to find a way back this summer”.
“The roots are so deep and, for so many members of my family, despite the fact that we might be gone a while, it is still considered by so many of us a home away from home and looked on very fondly.”
Two other prominent Irish-Americans in US politics, congressmen Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey, are fighting it out to be on the Democratic ticket in the June election for the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by former presidential nominee John Kerry after Obama installed him as secretary of state.
Kennedy declines to say which of his congressional colleagues he will be backing. “Both of them are extraordinarily impressive individuals who will serve Massachusetts really well in the Senate or Congress,” he says.
And would this be a seat he would have an eye on in the future? “My friend, the only seat I have an eye on is the one I am sitting in right now,” he says, flashing that famous Kennedy smile
The Kennedy Legacy continues - Joe Kennedy II and Joe Kennedy III on the House floor during swearing-in ceremonies on Capitol Hill, January 2013.