Leaders of the Democratic Party announced this week that Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III, will be delivering its response to President Trump's State of the Union on Jan. 30. Chosen to play such a prominent national role, there's already heightened interest in Joe Kennedy, including where he went to school.
Kennedy attended Stanford University, and received a Bachelor's degree in Management Science and Engineering, according to his biography page on his website. He then went to Harvard Law School, where he received a Juris Doctor degree, the website states. Kennedy met his wife, Lauren Anne Birchfield, while they were both in Harvard University. They currently live in Newton, Massachusetts, with their daughter and dog.
His website also states that he served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic "where he designed and implemented an economic development project." Kennedy is fluent in Spanish.
Part of the interest surrounding Kennedy — besides him being chosen as the to deliver the Democrats' response to Trump's SOTU — is his heritage. Kennedy is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy, and he is the only member of that political dynasty currently serving in politics. Kennedy has a fraternal twin brother, Matt.
There has been curiosity about the Massachusetts congressman since he ran for office and won the election in 2012. In the past year, however, Kennedy has gained national attention for several speeches he's made defending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients and criticizing the GOP's efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. His speech blasting President Trump's "both sides" remarks on the Charlottesville white nationalist rally was also widely shared on social media.
Kennedy is among the more liberal members of the Democratic Party. In a New York Times piece on Kennedy during his run for office in 2012, the paper described his positions as a "less than clear," but "uncontroversially liberal, at least for a Massachusetts Democrat. He supports gay marriage, a woman’s right to choose, the new health care law and the search for renewable energy."
And what about today? The issues he's currently focused on, according to his website, include "transgender rights, marriage equality, pay equity and comprehensive immigration reform."
At 37, Kennedy has, for the past year, been increasingly considered a rising star within the Democratic Party. And the leadership's decision to pick him to respond to Trump's first State of the Union — quite the major role by political standards — has spurred rumors that he could be a 2020 challenger. (Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose national profile is even more prominent, has also often been subjected to similar speculation.)
Hungry for fresh faces and more progressive candidates, voters on the left have consistently called out the aging Democratic establishment's moderate positions and seeming ineffectiveness against Trump and the GOP. Some see Kennedy — young, progressive, charismatic — as an answer to that, though others have already questioned why he was picked to give the Democrats' SOTU response over a woman or a person of color, given the current political climate.
Kennedy's prominence will likely only increase after his speech on Jan. 30. Though some might consider him too young and inexperienced to run for president, that criticism was also leveled at a first-term senator from Chicago, Barack Obama (who also went to Harvard Law School), when he ran for president in 2007. It would be a long shot if Kennedy chooses to throw his hat in the race in 2020; in the next few years, perhaps, running for senator would be a more logical choice.