Speech raises hopes Joe III could bring Kennedys back to White House
President John F Kennedy's great-nephew made headlines yesterday after delivering a hard-hitting speech for the Democratic Party's response to the State of the Union.
The 37-year-old Joseph Kennedy III called on Americans to reject the extreme partisanship and "chaos" of the Trump era. In an apparent reference to Donald Trump, he said "bullies may land a punch" and leave a mark but have "never managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defence of their future".
Mr Kennedy decried a rollback of civil rights protections, noting proposals that target Muslims, transgender people and others. The administration "isn't just targeting the laws that protect us - they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection," he said in a speech from a vocational high school in Fall River, Massachusetts, a one-time manufacturing hub now struggling with high unemployment and other problems.
Mr Kennedy, who has represented Massachusetts in the House of Representatives for the past five years, is widely considered a rising star within the party.
As a young, photogenic politician from a Democrat state, his selection is a clear indicator of the type of candidate the party hopes to put forward in the 2020 presidential election.
Yesterday was his first introduction to many Americans and positions him as the face of anti-Trump sentiment at a key moment for the US president.
The speech was also a chance to test his mettle on the national stage and may prove a stepping stone to a future presidential bid.
Mr Kennedy is a grandson of senator Robert Kennedy and a great-nephew of president John F Kennedy, both of whom were assassinated in the 1960s.
His father, Joseph Kennedy II, also represented Massachusetts in the House before returning to his non-profit energy company.
Before entering politics, Mr Kennedy served as a state prosecutor for three years after graduating from Harvard Law school in 2009.
He is a fluent Spanish speaker and spent time in the Dominican Republic while working with the Peace Corps in his 20s.
He has kept a low profile for much of his three terms in office, avoiding capitalising on his famous last name, but caught pundits' attention last year with a speech on Obamacare.
He delivered the powerful attack on Mr Trump and the Republicans' calls to repeal president Barack Obama's signature health law during a heated late-night debate.
A video of the speech, in which Mr Kennedy told congress: "We are judged not by how we treat the powerful, but how we care for the least among us", went viral and was viewed more than 14 million times. In response, Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, tweeted: "Wow. This is a Kennedy who could be president."
Mr Kennedy is a stark contrast to the Democrats' choice last year - Steve Beshear, a 73-year-old former governor of Kentucky - who delivered a low-key, conciliatory appeal for Mr Trump to preserve the Affordable Care Act.
It suggests the party is now moving away from attempts to make bipartisan deals, instead attempting to capitalise on the wave of dissatisfaction with the Trump administration. (© Daily Telegraph, London)