16 Facts About Joe Kennedy You Need To Know
If you're not from Massachusetts, there's a good chance you know zilch about the young congressman giving the Democrats' official State of the Union response beyond recognizing the last name that identifies him as part a certain famed political dynasty. But don't write Joe Kennedy III off based on that last name alone: There are many things you need to know about Joe Kennedy that might endear you to the up-and-coming political figure.
He was chosen for the SOTU job by congressional Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. "While President Trump has consistently broken his promises to the middle class, Congressman Kennedy profoundly understands the challenges facing hardworking men and women across the country," Pelosi said in a statement.
Schumer also spoke well of Kennedy and Virginia Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, an immigrant lawmaker who will give the response in Spanish. "In their responses to the president’s address, Congressman Kennedy and Virginia Delegate Guzman will both do an excellent job in making clear that Democrats are laser-focused on enacting policies to benefit middle class Americans, not special interests or the wealthiest." Schumer said in a statement.
As you listen to his response, keep these 16 things in mind.
1) He's One Of The Kennedys
Yes, this might be the one thing you already know, but here's how he's related to these famous politicians from years past. His grandfather is Bobby Kennedy, who ran for president and was assassinated. His two great uncles, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy, have also passed away.
Something you may not have known is that his father, Joe Kennedy II once served in the same seat.
2) He's Can Quote — Or At Least Reference —Scripture
His great uncle was criticized for being a Catholic. This young Kennedy is not afraid to challenge a Biblical reference. House Speaker Paul Ryan called a repeal of the health care law an "act of mercy."
Kennedy responded, saying, "With all due respect to our speaker, he and I must have read different scripture. 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."
3) He's For Trans Rights
Kennedy's guest to the State of the Union is Army Staff Sgt. Patricia King to bring attention to Trump's trans service member ban. She's the first person who had the military pay for their reassignment surgery.
4) But Seriously On The Trans Rights
Back in March of 2017, Kennedy became chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus’s bipartisan Transgender Equality Task Force. That makes him the head person on trans rights in the House. He said at the time:
From education to health care to public safety: transgender Americans are told near daily that their rights count as less. In a country built on the promise of equal protection, this is unacceptable. Facing new threats from a new Administration and discriminatory policies rearing their heads across the country, this Task Force is united in its unwavering support for the transgender community, grateful for the partnership of our allies and friends, and energized for the fight ahead.
5) He's Been In Congress Since 2013
Something to keep in mind, even though he seems so new on the scene. He has put in some time and has won three elections by increasing margins.
6) He Was In The Peace Corps
Kennedy served in the Dominican Republic from 2004 to 2006 in the program that was started by his great uncle, JFK. He helped tour guides bargain for better wages, he explained to Harwich High School students back in 2009. The Cape Cod Chronicle quoted him saying, "We basically created a union." It raised the wages of the guides but also tour operators, he said.
7) He's A Twin
That's right, he has a twin, Matt, who is just a tiny bit older than him but not identical. Matt is also into politics, having worked for the Obama Administration.
8) He Did Pro-Bono Work On Foreclosures During The Recession
9) Those Who Start Non-Profits Together, Stay Together
He and his wife, Lauren Birchfield, met at Harvard. They went on to start an after school program together, Picture This: Justice and Power in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, geared toward at-risk students.
10) He Played Milk Drinking Games In College
Kennedy was known at Stanford for not drinking alcohol — despite playing lacrosse and joining a frat. His brothers eventually respected his decision and started making him drink glasses of milk instead.
11) He Has A Sense Of Humor
When asked about his outlook for Tuesday night, Kennedy told The Washington Post, “I’m just hoping I can make it on and off the stage without tripping, dehydrating, or ruining my career."
12) He Had Elizabeth Warren As A Professor
Kennedy and Sen. Elizabeth Warren first met when she was his professor. Then, years later, he (a rep) introduced her (a senator) at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
"She was the toughest teacher on campus, but the wait list for her class was a mile long," he said to the crowd. “She pushed us hard, she brought out our best, she believed in us.”
13) On The Weekends It's Diaper Duty
When Kennedy goes home, he's met by two kids — one is a newborn. And you can bet there's some diaper duty in there somewhere.
"We are exhausted, over the moon and deeply grateful!" Kennedy tweeted after his son, James, was born in December. He also has a two-year-old girl, Eleanor.
14) He's Not Down With White Supremacy
This is something you might assume of your public officials, but for the record Kennedy has denounced acts of white nationalism over the last year publicly.
15) He's Got A Lot Of Cashola
Kennedy may be fighting for the working people of his district, but he does have a big cushion of family money to fall back on should his career in politics fizzle out. His net worth is upwards of $43 million.
16) He's On Snapchat
If you want to get to know Kennedy even better — and perhaps get a preview of his State of the Union response — all you need to do is add him to Snapchat and his "alarmingly accurate bitmoji" will walk you through his preparation for Tuesday night.
And going into the future, he may regularly run down all the important issues that the country is facing — not just on the night of the SOTU.