Rep. Joe Kennedy III Reflects On Great Uncle JFK’s LegacyPlay
Part of a series marking the 100-year anniversary of the birth of President John F. Kennedy in Brookline.
The latest member of the Kennedy family to represent Massachusetts on Capitol Hill never knew the most famous of all the Kennedys.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III was born in 1980 — almost 17 years after the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.
The late president would have turned 100 years old today.
We spoke to Rep. Kennedy about how he views the legacy of his great uncle.
On What Part Of JFK's Legacy Stands Out Personally
His extraordinary faith in the American people to overcome whatever obstacle is put in front of them if we come together as a people — whether that was civil rights or putting a man on the moon. And his call to everybody to find a way to contribute to taking on those challenges, to bringing down those barriers and to push our country forward.
On Kennedy's Experience In The Peace Corps
The time for me in the Peace Corps was easily the most formative experience I've had in my life. I would not be in office today if not for that experience. And I draw on that experience every single day from recognizing that there's an awful lot of differences that we have around this country and around the world — [but] there's an awful lot of similarities we share as well. And that you don't have to speak the same language, you don't have to be born in the same place — kids are kids and they want to play; parents are parents and they're going to do whatever they can for the well-being and the safety of their children.
People care for their community and will invest in their community and will look out for each other if they are challenged to do so. If people are challenged, they will respond. We've got to do a better job — everybody — of, I think, being a little bit more understanding, doing a little bit more listening and then seeing how you can tackle these challenges as a country.
On If The Kennedy Political Legacy Has Made His Own Career Difficult
I think if I have learned one thing from all of my family members, both sides of it — my mom's side, my dad's side and everyone else — it's that every one of us has a responsibility to do what we can to contribute back and make our communities and our country a better place. And some can do that through elected office, others can do that through community service work or whichever other way that you choose. But that we have a responsibility to try to do so and that, as long as you are trying to carry out that responsibility as best you can with the tools that you have and the privileges that you come with.
The success that some of my family members have had in their commitment to this country and how they were able to push our country to a better place is something I admire, but anybody trying to emulate that level of success or that level of commitment — I think that's a high bar to set.
On If He Felt Pressured To Enter Politics
No, no, no. I grew up around it. I was interested in it, certainly. My dad was in it, when he had his coworkers over, my uncle had his friends over at the Cape, they happened to be senators and congressmen. So I saw a human side of this that probably most people don’t see — senators and members of the House weren’t just people you saw on TV, they were your parents’ friends. I think that lesson has stuck with me a bit — I try not to vilify or attack some of our colleagues as others might, just because you do see them as people.
"...every one of us has a responsibility to do what we can to contribute back and make our communities and our country a better place."Rep. Joe Kennedy
But, Bob, the person who pushed me most not to run for office happened to be my dad, somebody who's gone through multiple campaigns himself. Somebody that understands what this job can be and the extraordinary honor and responsibility that comes with it — but what it also asks of an individual, what it asks of a family, the scrutiny that you put yourself and your family under. This is only something that I only think anybody should do if they are committed to wanting to do it. And if you're not doing it because it's something you believe in that you want to do, it's going to be be a pretty brutal experience. And my dad, my family, pushed me pretty hard to make sure that this was something that I wanted to do personally and not for any other reason — and I'm grateful for that.
On Potentially Running For Higher Offices
None of that is on my mind at the moment. My father-in-law, who's a Presbyterian minister said, 'We make plans and God laughs.' This job is demanding. I have an amazing wife and a beautiful little girl that I don’t see often enough at the moment. Trying to balance the challenges of a legislative agenda here, trying to push through some bills that I believe in, that I hope will gain bipartisan support, and trying to spend time with an infant little girl is pretty much all the time that I can require at this point.
This segment aired on May 30, 2017.