Massachusetts Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, a member of the Kennedy political dynasty, has been chosen for one of the most challenging jobs in politics: the official Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday, Jan. 30.
Democratic leaders in Congress picked Kennedy, currently serving his third term in Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district, because they believe he and his record stand in contrast to President Trump. Kennedy also happens to be the grandson of former Attorney General and U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
“Bullies may land a punch,” an excerpt from Kennedy’s Democratic response reads, according to a release from his office. “They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future.
Kennedy won’t be the only one delivering a response to Trump’s State of the Union, either. In keeping with recent tradition, multiple critics of the Trump Administration will speak after his State of the Union address. Virginia Delegate Elizabeth Guzman will deliver the Spanish-language response, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will livestream his own remarks on social media and Rep. Maxine Waters will speak as part of a program on BET.
While Trump’s speech is among the most anticipated of the year, typically, the Democratic response Kennedy has been selected to give is not. But the moment in the spotlight does raise the profile of lawmakers, particularly those who have their eyes on higher office.
Here’s what to know about Kennedy ahead of Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Who is Joe Kennedy III?
Kennedy, a 37-year-old progressive, is a member of one the most well-known American dynasties, but he keeps a pretty low profile. He also garnered a bit of national attention during the healthcare debate in 2017, after speeches he delivered denouncing Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act went viral on Facebook.
A graduate of both Stanford and Harvard, Kennedy served as an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts before serving in Congress. He also served with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republican from 2004 and 2006. In 2016, Kennedy told U.S. News and World Report that he carries the experiences he had in the Peace Corps with him to this day: “To me, that’s what the Peace Corps is all about – the impact that simple acts of service can have across borders, generations and time,” he said in an interview. “It’s a lesson I carry with me every day.”
What is Joe Kennedy known for?
Kennedy’s may be an unfamiliar face to many, and that’s partially by design. According to Politico, the young Democrat did not want to be seen as a political celebrity when he took office in 2012. But Kennedy’s profile has risen a bit due to his forceful denunciations of the Republican health care plan. A video of a floor speech he delivered last year garnered more than 3 million views on Facebook.
Kennedy serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and has sponsored legislation to boost the manufacturing sector. He is also recognized as an advocate for LGBTQ rights and comprehensive immigration reform.
Is Joe Kennedy going to run for higher office?
Even before he was tapped to deliver the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address, where several other Democrats have said they will not attend, there were already rumblings about Kennedy’s political ambitions, especially given his lineage.
The father of two is the grandson of the Sen. Robert S. Kennedy, and great-nephew of Sen. Ted Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy.
When Politico asked Kennedy if he had plans to run for higher office in September 2017, he said: “Somewhere down the road, if a Senate seat were to open, yeah, it’s something I’d certainly take a look at. But that’s got to be right in time for me and my family.”
Kennedy has said he would not go up against either of the sitting Massachusetts Senators if they are not open to stepping down. According to Politico, Kennedy has a personal connection to one of the state’s Senators: he and his wife Lauren met in Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s class at Harvard.