By Ashley Wall
Sitting on a counter watching over his supporters, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III blended in as an onlooker, awaiting his own arrival.
If it wasn’t for his friendly smile and presence, one might have mistaken Kennedy for any other visitor of the Amazing Things Arts Center, brimming with dazzling lights and compelling campaign signs.
Joe’s visit to Framingham on Jan. 25 was part of his Senate campaign against longtime congressman, now first-term Sen. Ed Markey. Like many of the locations on his Town Hall tour, Framingham is not in his 4th Congressional District, allowing for Joe to get out and answer questions about his life and career with those he does not currently represent.
“It’s about trying to go out there and meet as many voters as you can, explain your values and vision, ask for their help and support,” Kennedy said on his campaign efforts.
Although Kennedy is known for his impactful life as a congressman and the political legacy his family members leave behind, he is still able to move outside of his family’s dynasty and emerge as a young politician who prioritizes representation and inclusiveness.
Before becoming a congressman, Kennedy volunteered in the Peace Corps and worked as an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts, which helped him grow his political resume.
He stands determined, in hopes of defeating Sen. Ed Markey, a longtime politician who has been in Congress for over 30 years and elected to the Senate seat held by John Kerry.
Joe spoke of his political motivation saying, “This country was founded on a pretty simple idea – that every single person here counts, regardless of who you are.
“If you believe that this country is a great country with extraordinary people in it, then you have an opportunity to contribute to try to make the country a better, stronger, fairer place.”
From discussing universal mental health care to civil rights, this belief shines through in every crack of his campaign and presence.
“You want to be in a place that welcomes people of different backgrounds and ethnicities and religions and know that if you structure a society in a strong and fair way, that each one of them can make a contribution to make our country a stronger place. I think we have some work to do to get there,” he continued.
Joe began as merely a bystander while Framingham City Councilor Adam Steiner introduced him, but he fit right into the crowd of his supporters, leaving a sense of impartiality for ordinary community members.
The feelings of inclusion continued as Joe walked into a standing ovation before stopping to say hello to a familiar face in the audience. A young girl, who had originally met Joe during his initial run for Congress, embraced him with a hug and acknowledged their meaningful encounters.
Inclusion is a key component between his staff as well.
Jacquetta Van Zandt, director of community outreach, said, “Joe is a good man who is dedicated to bringing the voiceless to the table. That is so important to me as a woman of color and someone who has a senior role on his campaign.
“Joe was energetic. He believed in the things that I believed in, specifically cutting down on systemic racism and battling for better health care. I am a big proponent of elder care, so we talked about those things. That’s why I got on board,” she continued.
Brian Phillips Jr., press secretary, agrees as well. He said, “In all my years of politics, I’ve never been in a leadership position aside from Joe. ... I believe that his idea of what diversity and inclusion means is really important to me.”
“You want to go out there to folks who usually feel marginalized, who feel left out. They’re part of Massachusetts. He could sit back, relax, and do paid advertising like anybody could or he can choose to come out here,” Brian said on how the campaign has been focusing on inclusion.
Additionally, Joe had the ability to keep the audience laughing before his brimming Town Hall even began.
While talking about meeting campaign followers and the locals, Joe said, “We will go to more Dunkin’ Donuts than you’ve ever been to in your life,” resulting in an eruption of laughter and understanding.
Jokes aside, Kennedy was able to get deep into conversation, allowing for his engaged audience to ask questions on policies and his senate hopes.
Joe said, “No matter what anybody tells you, this is about people.”
This belief was the foundation of his Framingham Town Hall, and also those around him.
“You go out and you make yourself as available as you can and you listen, you take questions, you learn from people that have different opinions and different backgrounds and experiences.
“By the way, that’s a great thing. I think that’s a strength of our country. I don’t want to be in a country that thinks the same way or has the same experience,” Joe added.
With this mindset, Joe is on track to continue reaching Massachusetts residents as well as his campaign supporters.
As a fluent Spanish speaker, Kennedy has been able to reach a larger audience, as well as host the first Spanish-speaking Town Hall, enabling the voiceless to be heard and a higher level of inclusion.
With the beliefs that everyone is equal, and everyone deserves a voice, Joe will continue his campaign until the election in September.
As Jacquetta said, “Vote for Joe!”