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The Kennedy Mystique

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Congressman Joseph Kennedy at the Barrington Stage Company here in the Berkshires. Kennedy is running for the US Senate in Massachusetts, hoping to unseat Ed Markey, who’s been the state’s junior senator since 2013 and a member of Congress since 1976. They’re both Democrats, and it promises to be an interesting campaign. The meet and greet took place at the Barrington Stage Company on Main Street in Pittsfield early on a Saturday morning and was attended by at least a hundred people. I follow politics as close as most of my fellow Americans, but I rarely go to political rallies or speeches and rarely meet candidates who are running for office. When my wife, who is on the board of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, asked me to attend, I was initially reluctant. Wow, am I happy she convinced me to go and spend the hour participating in our political process.

There was a great sense of anticipation in the room, something I could feel, as the crowd awaited his arrival. Like most politicians running for a national office, Kennedy had a tight schedule of appearances that morning all over the state, and like most politicians, his staff overbooked him, and he was close to an hour late. So we chatted among ourselves, drinking coffee and eating cinnamon donuts from a local apple orchard named Bartlett’s. I mostly stood off on the fringe of the crowd—which I usually do because big crowds always make me feel claustrophobic—watching as my wife worked the room, chatting with many of the local politicians and business leaders from our community. As the minutes ticked by, the buzz continued to grow as everyone, including me, kept glancing out the front window, hoping to get a glimpse of Kennedy as his field team pulled up to the front of the building.

We weren’t disappointed when he entered the room.

There was a moment of awed silence as he began working the crowd, larger than life, stopping to shake hands and chat, to take pictures and selfies. I watched from my perch in the corner—a vestige of being a television producer, when I always stood off in a corner planning my next shot—until I momentarily locked eyes with him, and he walked over to say hello, a big smile on his face. We talked for a moment or two, not about anything important, just two people making small talk in a crowd of onlookers. But it wasn’t so much what he said to me, it was the way he said it and the look on his face—strength, confidence, a sense of presence and power. He made me feel important. He made me feel special.

Kennedy gave a brief speech—very natural, very inspiring, very much from his heart. It reminded me of a time past, when other Kennedy’s—Jack, Robert (his grandfather), and Ted—captured the hearts of America, giving us a sense of hope and well-being. When he finally finished and thanked us for coming, I realized that even while living through the nightmare of the past three years, there is still promise in America and in our political system. That the negative rhetoric that has dominated the political scene for so long is just a terrible phase in our long history, and that now with a new, younger generation of politicians—many like Joseph Kennedy—maybe we can pass through this political nightmare and recapture our footing and make what has always been great about America great once again. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and as I said, I really didn’t want to go, but now that I’ve met Joseph Kennedy, I have a renewed sense of peace and real hope for our nation’s future.

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