Kennedy in waiting: Joe III is ‘the real deal’
Joe Kennedy III is the teetotal young pretender who seems the clan member most likely to follow in his great-uncle’s footsteps
It’s lines like that which lead some political analysts to suggest that the sky’s the limit for young Joe Kennedy. Some say he’s a natural to become a senator like his grandfather. Others point even higher.
“Please,” he says, rolling his eyes. “Let me figure out how to become an effective congressman first. I don’t want to talk about that stuff. It’s silly.”
Unlike so many of the other Kennedys, who either displayed indifference or outright hostility to a public life (or who, like Caroline Schlossberg, JFK’s daughter, withdrew from the attempt), the third generation’s Joe Kennedy seemed destined from an early age for a life of politics. One of his mentors, former congressman Bill Delahunt, spotted in him, even when he was a teenager, a maturity that others inside and outside his family lacked.
“Young Joe was focused,” said Delahunt. “While other kids were goofing off, doing what kids do, Joe knew he had to keep his nose clean if he wanted to go into the game.”
He was also conscious of cutting a different swath for himself. While generations of Kennedy men went to Harvard, young Joe Kennedy and his twin brother Matt opted for Stanford University in California.
Young Joe Kennedy does not drink alcohol. That is quite a departure for a member of a political dynasty that has had more than its share of problems with alcohol and substance abuse.
When he played lacrosse at Stanford, he would drink milk while his teammates partied with beer. His teammates nicknamed him The Milkman.
“We always joked that Joe was going to run for president,” Matt Twomey, who played lacrosse at Stanford with Kennedy, told The Boston Globe. “With that last name of his and the fact that he didn’t drink, it just seemed obvious.”
Kennedy says his teetotalism is not rooted in ambition. “It’s just a personal preference,” he said. “It’s really just something I have never felt an attraction to.”
Kennedy’s ability to be ambitious without really seeming ambitious may be as important to his political rise as his famous pedigree. He spent two years in the Dominican Republic for the Peace Corps, founded by his great-uncle, the president. Fresh out of Harvard Law School, he went to work as a prosecutor.
A newlywed, who married his Harvard sweetheart and episcopalian minister’s daughter Lauren Anne last December, Kennedy is aware of the price that a public life can exact. He and his brother were seven years old when their father was first elected to Congress. Two years later, their parents divorced and the boys were shuttled between homes.
Young Joe Kennedy seems more grounded than most. To this day, he talks to his twin brother every day. He will not let the job define him. His family defines him. And that is an identity that carries with it much privilege, but also much burden.
He seems up to the challenge.
He is the first Kennedy of his generation to run for public office.
It’s doubtful he’ll be the last.