On Campus

Political club Skypes with congressman: LEAD talks Russia, Green New Deal, and 2020 with Rep. Joe Kennedy III ’99

“Raise your hand if Kennedy represents your district,” Leaders for Equity Advancement and Democracy (LEAD) club Co-President Pierce Haley ’19 asked a group of 18 students and faculty during a Skype call with Rep. Joe Kennedy III ’99 on February 26. Five hands shot up, met with a smile and a chuckle from Rep. Kennedy.

Pierce said he and fellow LEAD co-president Katie Randall ’19 organized the call with Rep. Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District, two weeks earlier with help from Pierce’s mom, a political reporter with contacts in the Kennedy office. 

He added that the office replied a day after he emailed them with enthusiasm, and Rep. Kennedy’s availability aligned perfectly with the school’s second lunch, when the call took place. 

“He’s a BB&N alumnus and rising member in Congress who is well-respected and is going to be doing really influential things in the future, so Katie and I jumped at the opportunity to speak with him,” Pierce said.

Through a school-wide email, Pierce and Katie encouraged students interested in connecting with Rep. Kennedy to submit questions beforehand in order to maximize the short time with him.

Many student questions concerned current political issues.

Kate Whitaker ’19 asked Rep. Kennedy whom he plans to endorse for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination and if he will base this decision on the electability or ideology of the candidates. 

Rep. Kennedy responded that he backs Senator Elizabeth Warren based on both factors.

“I believe the single biggest issue facing our country is structural inequalities,” Rep. Kennedy said. “No one has been more focused than [Warren], which is why I came out with my support as early as I did.”

Katie asked Rep. Kennedy about his thoughts on the Green New Deal (see, “What’s up with the Green New Deal?” page 11). Rep. Kennedy replied that he believes the Green New Deal will leverage the economy to address climate change. 

“There will definitely be tradeoffs, as well as different costs and benefits, but why we shouldn’t at least try is beyond me,” he said.

Other students focused their questions on Rep. Kennedy’s political experience and press statements.

Harry Golen ’19 asked Rep. Kennedy about the process of giving the State of the Union rebuttal last year.

Rep. Kennedy told students that prior to being offered the honor, he had no idea why anyone would want to take on the challenge of the rebuttal. But when asked, he immediately said yes. He had only a little over a week’s notice to prepare.

“My strategy was not trying to compete [with the president], but to be fresh and be new,” he said.

Pierce ended the call with a question about what Rep. Kennedy meant with his comment on “The Van Jones Show,” where he said he hopes the Mueller report “turns up nothing for the sake of our democracy.”

Rep. Kennedy responded that he would like to think most Americans agree with his statement. 

“I don’t think anyone should be cheering about the idea of Russians undermining the most fundamental part of our democracy,” Rep. Kennedy explained. “We already have a lot to beat [Trump] with because he’s a terrible president. If we need the Russians and can’t beat him with all the rest, shame on us.”

After Rep. Kennedy told the LEAD co-presidents to enjoy their “senior spring” and signed off from the call, Katie commented on his personable demeanor. 

“He’s young and was in our shoes not that long ago,” she said. “It’s easy to see him being a BB&N student.”

Having Rep. Kennedy speak provided members of the club and the whole school community with motivation to keep fighting for their political beliefs, she added. 

“Seeing how passionate he was about our country’s future really rubbed off on everyone watching,” she said.

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