By Skylar Smith
In the Congressional race for the 4th district of Massachusetts in November, Democrat Joseph Kennedy III ’99 defeated Republican Sean Bielat, earning 61.1% of the vote.
This triumph reestablished the Kennedys’ long-standing relationship with the federal government. According to The Boston Globe, from 1947 up until 2011, at least one Kennedy served in the House of Representatives, Senate, or the White House.
“I’m really thrilled that he won this election because I think that he’s a wonderful guy who will do a wonderful job,” said English Teacher Rob Leith, who taught Kennedy his senior year at BB&N. “I thought that he was a hardworking, upbeat, honest student who had a serious concern for others and was a terrific and bright person as well.”
According to Kennedy, BB&N played an instrumental role in cultivating his political interests and preparing him for the next step.
“My education at BB&N really prepared me well for a demanding college experience at Stanford, and it just set that foundation for everything in the working world and beyond that I have been doing since,” he said.
Kennedy also attributes his passion for politics to his experiences after high school, such as working for the United Nations as a research analyst for economic development, working in the Peace Corps, and spending time as a prosecutor for a legal aid organization.
“I loved my job [as a prosecutor], but part of what I realized was that we were approaching each case as a problem to solve instead of trying to think of solutions that would prevent those cases from getting to [our] desks in the first place,” said Kennedy. “This really helped feed my interest in legislation in politics and in being part of those policy discussions.”
BB&N students who choose to work for Kennedy’s campaign this past year, including Shai Tabb ’13, Andrew Shifren ’13, and Lucy Hurlock ’12.
“I know that lot of seniors last year worked on his campaign and a fair number of juniors worked for Elizabeth Warren and some other independent candidate,” said Carly Hayden ’13, whose family is friends with the Kennedys. “I’m not sure if he is the candidate that has gotten the most support from BB&N students in terms of volunteering, but I’m sure he got more because he was a BB&N alum.”
According to Kennedy, the largest factors in his decisive victory were the hard work from his campaign staff and the large number of young volunteers working on the campaign. “I was very fortunate to be able to put together the best congressional staff that I think our state has ever seen. The youth and energy served as an integral part of our campaign and let us run it the way we wanted. I really think that’s what carried us over the finish line.”
According to Mr. Leith, the political legacy of the Kennedy family also played a significant role in his win. “I think his name helped him without a doubt—I’m sure he would admit that, too. I don’t think that he would have gotten the nomination without the name—Maybe if he were older, he would have, but his rapid rise certainly owes a lot to the name.”
Kennedy agreed, but also distinguished himself from his family: “I’m certainly very proud of my family’s work in the public service in Massachusetts and for the country. From the very beginning of the campaign, however, I told people that it was my name on the ballot and that it was me [who was] out there knocking on doors and letting people know who I was and what I cared about.”
Although Kennedy’s name may have helped him win, Shai believes that he could have won based on his platform. “I think his last name definitely helped, but I also think that the district he was running in was a good environment for him,” said Shai.
“He’s a really unpretentious guy who never traded on his name , so yes, he was helped by his name, but he was never somebody who felt that his name meant he deserved any privileges that other people didn’t have,” said Mr. Leith.
“The biggest thing moving forward is to make sure we hit the ground running, carry over the case work ,and dig into the policy work that’s going to be necessary right away,” said Kennedy. “There are lots of decisions in Congress that will come out in the next two years that could potentially have a huge impact on our generation, so getting a chance to have a voice in those discussions is truly a privilege and something I am very proud of.”
Photo: Lucy Hurlock ’12 worked on Kennedy’s campaign last spring. By Thomas Karol.