Kennedy campaign stops at Wellesley
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 07:04
More than 175 people gathered in Pendleton Atrium on April 12 to hear congressional candidate Joe Kennedy speak to Wellesley students about his campaign. Kennedy, the son of former Massachusetts Rep. Joseph Kennedy II, is also the grandson of Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated during his campaign for the presidency in 1968. Others have entered the congressional race but Kennedy is considered the front-runner in the Democratic primary, which is scheduled to take place on Sept. 6, 2012.
Kennedy said to Wellesley students that he is running for a seat in the House of Representatives because he feels that young people need a voice in Congress. Kennedy himself is just 31 years old.
Kennedy is campaigning as a Democrat in the Massachusetts fourth congressional district, which includes the town of Wellesley. The current occupant of the congressional seat, Representative Barney Frank, will be stepping down this January after 20 years of representing the district.
The Wellesley College Democrats and Students for Joe Kennedy have actively campaigned for Kennedy in the town of Wellesley and were able to bring him to speak on campus.
“Collaborating with Students for Joe Kennedy was a great opportunity to hear directly from him about his vision for the future. His message is one that we, as students, can relate to,” Melanie Kaplan ’12, president of Wellesley College Democrats, said.
Kennedy used his speech at Wellesley to outline a vision of greater youth involvement in public service. As a college graduate, Kennedy served in the Peace Corps, where he worked with underpaid tour guides at a national park in the Dominican Republic. Kennedy spoke of the satisfaction he felt after earning a grant for the park and helping to raise the salaries of workers there.
“I learned so much from that experience,” Kennedy said.
He used personal anecdotes and historical references to help explain why college students should find ways to get involved in public service, alluding to young people who have shaped the course of history. He pointed to Dr. Martin Luther King, who became a key figure in the civil rights movement in his 20s, and Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian who was 26 years old when his self-immolation ignited the Arab Spring last year.
“I thought [the speech] was great because there are so few people who are saying young people can make a difference,” audience member Laurence Toal ’14 said.
In fact, Kennedy chose to come to Wellesley because of the high level of involvement on campus. Wellesley students have attended district-wide organizational meetings and collected signatures to help get Kennedy onto the ballot.
“I was always taught to judge the strength of a campaign by the energy and number of volunteers, and college students are the best we can get,” he said.
Kennedy ensured that, if elected to Congress, he would continue to strive for greater youth involvement in politics.
“A lot of the decisions made in Washington right now are going to have a huge impact on each of us and our generation,” Kennedy said. “Many of the leaders making those decisions will be out of power long before those changes take effect. In other words, they’re going to be making decisions that you and I have to pay for.”
Kennedy also spoke of his desire to end the partisan power games that keep important legislation from being passed.
“If we don’t learn how to talk to each other, if we don’t reach across the aisle, extend a hand, and start a conversation―then the promises and principles that made this country great will slip away,” Kennedy stated in a public announcement on his campaign site.
Though he is a member of America’s most famous political family, Kennedy affirmed his connection with the students in the audience.
“This is our fight. [These decisions] are going to shape our future,” he said. “We need a seat at the table.”
If he wins the election on Nov. 6, Kennedy will be the only member of his family currently in Congress. Representative Barney Frank has praised Kennedy, telling Politico: “I’m very impressed with him.”
The fourth district is heavily Democratic, giving a strong edge to the Democratic candidate in the November elections. Kennedy has not held political office before, and resigned as a Middlesex County prosecutor before he entered the race in February.
While Kennedy spoke heavily of the need for young people to help fix some of the current problems in government, he provided few details in his short speech at Wellesley College.
In general, the event elicited positive responses from audience members, including those from outside the Wellesley College community. Andrew Rindlaub, an Oberlin-bound senior from Wellesley High School, came to hear Kennedy speak because he was looking for a way to get involved in politics.
“I didn’t know much about [Kennedy] and I thought the speech resonated,” he said, “but I hope he puts up more information about his specific policies.”
The Joe Kennedy for Congress campaign site outlines key aspects of Kennedy’s platform, such as lessening the country’s debt and ending the American dependence on foreign oil. However, Kennedy does little to describe the policies he would implement to fix those issues.
Nevertheless, Kennedy’s speech seemed to motivate members of the audience on Thursday. Some attendees approached campaign volunteers afterwards to sign up for more involvement in the campaign.
“I thought he was really good, really sincere and had great things to say,” Sarah Schwartzmeyer ’13, one such audience member, said. “I signed up to maybe do an internship this summer.”