Joseph P. Kennedy III, 35, represents Massachusetts fourth Congressional District in the House and will speak at the Democratic National Convention. He is a member of the famed Kennedy family, as the son of former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II and grandson of Robert F. Kennedy. In November 2016, he was successfully elected for a third term.
Kennedy delivered the Democratic response after the 2018 State of the Union address by Donald Trump. “Russia: Knee deep in our Democracy,” he said, ticking off a list of things that he opposes. “….a Justice Department rolling back civil rights back the day. Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets. Bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts… targeting our sacred places.”
This, said Kennedy, “is not right. This is not who we are.” At one point during his talk, he spoke in Spanish to the Dreamers, saying, “You are part of our story. We will fight for you. And we will not walk away.” Of building a wall he said, “my generation will tear it down,” a direct slam at the president’s earlier call for immigration reform.
In March 2017, Kennedy attracted national attention for his criticism of the Republican American Health Care Act. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, he already had to vote on it and called it an “act of malice.”
“I was struck last night by a comment I heard made by Speaker Ryan, where he called this repeal bill, quote, an ‘act of mercy.'” With all due respect to our speaker, he and I must have read different scripture,” Kennedy said. “The one that I read calls on us to feed the hungry, feed the naked, to shelter the homeless and to comfort the sick. It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful, but how we care for the least among us.”
Kennedy replaced retired Congressman Barney Frank in 2013 and he ended a two-year period where there was no Kennedy family member in Washington politics. He volunteered for the Peace Corps and served as a district attorney before running for Congress. Kennedy is married to lawyer Lauren Anne Birchfield and they have a seven-month old daughter named Eleanor.
In 2016, Kennedy was easily re-elected, beating Republican challenger Dave Rosa with 72 percent of the votes.
Here’s a look at Kennedy’s life and career.
1. Kennedy & His Wife Were Classmates in Elizabeth Warren’s Harvard Class
Kennedy and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren are connected in more ways than just the fact that they both represent the Bay State in Congress and spoke at the DNC. Warren is somewhat responsible for Kennedy meeting his wife. The couple met in Warren’s class and they got married in 2012.
“Joe tells me there are five couples from that class, and I take credit for all of them,” Warren told WPRI in 2013. Warren said that Kennedy was a good student.
Kennedy’s wife, Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, is a California-born lawyer. Birchfield Kennedy, 33, has been married to Joe Kennedy since 2012. They met at Harvard Law School and were engaged while Joe was running for Congress and have two children together, a daughter and a son.
Kennedy also told the Boston Herald in July that he would have considered running for Senate if Warren was Hillary Clinton’s pick for Vice President. That didn’t happen, so Kennedy just has to focus on keeping his seat in the House.
Some people saw a greater political future after listening to his SOTU 2018 response.
He said that the administration was “callously appraising the worthiness” of people and turning American life “into a zero sum game” where “for one to win, another must lose.”
2. Kennedy’s Net Worth Is at Least $15.6 Million & He’s Married to a Lawyer
The Center for Responsive Politics estimated in 2013 that Kennedy’s net worth is between $15.6 million and $55.7 million. That’s thanks to being a member of the Kennedy family, since he has spent much of his life after college in public service.
He attended Stanford University with a major in management science and then attended Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 2009. His first job after law school was district attorney for the Cape and Islands Office. In 2012, he was hired by the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office, where he worked until he decided to jump into politics.
3. He Speaks Fluent Spanish After Volunteering in the Peace Corps
Like Clinton runningmate Tim Kaine, Kennedy speaks fluent Spanish. During his time in the Peace Corps, he worked in the Dominican Republic. The Boston Globe reports that Kennedy helped organize tour guides and got the government to support them.
“You’re asking them to make a huge investment in their future, back-breaking work. And, I’m saying, yeah but trust me, you’ll get something in the future,” Kennedy told the Globe in 2012.
“Joe was very easy to work with and he has stayed in touch with us. In truth, he was a real leader and we will never forget him,” Herbito Lopez, the president of the guide’s association, told the Globe.
4. He Voted Against a Patriot Act Amendment to Limit the NSA
In 2013, Kennedy was among the 83 Democrats who voted against the Amash-Conyers Amendment. According to Michigan Representative Justin Amash, the amendment was supposed to end the mass collection of phone records by the National Security Agency. The measure was not passed, 205-217.
Kennedy is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose only Senate member is Bernie Sanders. Kennedy was one of only eight members of the caucus to vote against the amendment. He was also the only Massachusetts member of congress to vote against it.
“News of the NSA program started a robust public discussion, which I believe should continue here in Congress,” Kennedy told Boston Magazine. “But until we have that debate, cutting funding for a program that intelligence officials say has stopped terrorist attacks on U.S. soil seems premature.”
5. He Participated in House Sit-In to Support Gun Control Measures & Told the Story of a Doctor Killed
In June, Kennedy was among the Democrats who held a sit-in in the House to get a vote on gun control measures. When he took the podium, he told the story of Dr. Michael Davidson, a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who was killed in January 2015 by a man whose mother was a patient of Davidson’s. Kennedy read a letter written by Davidson’s widow, Dr. Terri Halperin, reports the Boston Globe.
“We have been silent too long. Wake up, congressmen, your nation is calling and we are [angry], we want something done,” Halperin’s letter read. After finishing it, Kennedy said, “Terri, we hear you.”