WBUR

Newest Kennedy In Congress Draws Lessons From A Great-Uncle

TAUNTON, Mass. — U.S. Rep.-elect Joseph Kennedy III thanked supporters in Fall River and Taunton on Friday. He’s also trying to figure out how he would like to spend his time in Washington, D.C.

At a diner here in Taunton, Kennedy was talking about how he’s been fielding calls from Democratic leaders in the U.S. House, when his phone began to vibrate.

U.S. Rep.-elect Joseph Kennedy III, right, talks to supporters at a Taunton diner Friday. (Fred Thys/WBUR)

Joseph Kennedy III, right, talks to supporters at a Taunton diner Friday. (Fred Thys/WBUR)

“Uh, excuse me,” Kennedy said. He stepped outside to take the call.

“That was actually the president, so I apologize,” Kennedy said. The president had called to congratulate Kennedy.

Kennedy said he expects to know more about committee assignments next week, during the orientation for new members of Congress.

He then laid out his priorities:

Economic opportunity, economic mobility. I think a part of that is education. Workforce development is certainly something I have a big interest in.

Kennedy said he wants to help develop biotechnology in Taunton and Fall River, and to use his Peace Corps experience in the Dominican Republic, as well as development work in Asia and Africa, to work on foreign policy.

He said he learned from his great-uncle, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, about how to get things done on Capitol Hill.

“One of the ways that my uncle really was effective was recognizing that the role of the legislator is to find common ground,” Kennedy III said. “We’ve got a big country, a diverse country. People don’t agree on everything. That’s not a bad thing. That’s what makes this country such a special place. You also don’t have to agree on everything. You might disagree on eight things out of 10. That means you agree on two.”

Kennedy comes across as thoughtful. He said he has to take time to understand what his new colleagues care about. He recognizes that the country is divided, but he says everybody wants the government to work better, and compromise is the way to go.

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