A member of the Kennedy political dynasty has been chosen for one of the most challenging jobs in politics: the official response to the State of the Union address.
Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III, the grandson of former Attorney General and U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, will deliver the official Democratic response to President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
Democratic leaders in Congress picked Kennedy, currently serving his third term, because they believe he and his record stand in contrast to President Trump.
“While President Trump has consistently broken his promises to the middle class, Congressman Kennedy profoundly understands the challenges facing hard-working men and women across the country,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
He won’t be alone, either. In keeping with recent tradition, multiple critics of the Administration will speak afterward. 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 the president’s speech is among the most anticipated of the year, typically, the response 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 the Tuesday night speech.
Who is Joe Kennedy III?
The 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 he 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 his 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.
Read more: How to Watch the State of the Union
Is he going to run for higher office?
Even before he was tapped to deliver the State of the Union response 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 him 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.”
The Congressman 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 he 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.