A Kennedy State of the Union…Response

This blog was originally published on Forbes as A Kennedy State Of The Union…Response on Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

Last night, for the first time in the eight and a half years since Teddy Kennedy died and broke a half-century chain of Kennedy clan political prominence, another member of the family burst onto the national scene. 37-year old Joseph Patrick Kennedy III, the U.S. Representative for Massachusetts’s 4th Congressional District, delivered the Democratic response to the president’s State of the Union—and did his legacy proud.

Joe Kennedy came to the podium with the familiar natural assets of his bloodline: the patrician good looks, the square jaw, the dramatic head of hair and the platform poise of his grandfather Bobby Kennedy and great-uncles JFK and Teddy. But Joe also brought an impressive array of his own skills:

Content:

  • His 13-minute speech criticized, as is its innate purpose, the current administration and opposition party, but that was only for the first half; the balance was about his party’s positive proposals—a refreshing departure from the current constant state of attack from all sides.
  • His entire speech was primarily focused on the concerns of citizens and constituents (see my prior blog about how that same approach helped a state candidate to an upset win in Wisconsin). As evidence, Kennedy said “we” 36 times, “our” 42 times, “you” 46 times, and never once “I.”
  • In an echo of JFK’s historic “Ich bin ein Berliner moment,” Joe Kennedy addressed the Dreamers in the audience with several flawless Spanish sentences.

 

Staging:

  • In an echo of his grandfather Bobby’s famous speaking style, Joe spoke in his shirtsleeves.
  • And following the advice of another Massachusetts congressman, Tip O’Neill, that “All Politics is Local,” young Joe Kennedy chose as the venue for his speech a vocational training school in Fall River, Massachusetts.

 

Delivery:

  • In contrast to his ancestors’ well-known stentorian delivery, Joe Kennedy was conversational, yet passionate.
  • Teleprompters are meant to help speakers deliver their carefully prepared texts flawlessly; but teleprompters can also backfire—witness the former reality television star’s robotic recitation of his State of the Union last night; yet how smoothly and naturally Joe Kennedy moved between the teleprompter panels, while maintaining eye contact with the audience.

 

Joe Kennedy proved himself a force to be reckoned with in the national political arena.

This blog was originally published on Forbes as A Kennedy State Of The Union…Response on Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

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