EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

February 17, 2013

Congressman edges Kennedy name back into politics

(Continued)

In particular, he cites an opportunity to work with Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee, in addition to protecting research and development on the Science, Space and Technology Committee. He hopes this is the beginning of a long career in public service.

“Members of my family — both my mother’s side and my father’s side — have found ways to serve,” Kennedy says. “And as long as I feel like I can continue to contribute — and if I get the support of the people that I’m representing — I hope to be able to. ... I am enjoying this.”

But his inexperience is easy to see.

He nibbled on his fingernails while waiting more than an hour to speak during the first hearing of the science committee. With just a hint of a Massachusetts accent, the soft-spoken Harvard Law graduate stumbled over his words at times before asking a Texas Instruments official about the company’s effort to address cancer rates in his district.

But there is little doubt that his name gives him more weight than the average freshman.

The audience perked up when Kennedy was called on to speak at the committee hearing. And the other elected officials are well aware of his background.

“It was extra special for me to sit with a Kennedy at a presidential swearing-in,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., another freshman who sat next to Kennedy at Obama’s recent inauguration.

“But he’s one of the most modest, humble individuals you’ll ever meet,” Swalwell continued. “He stands on his own two feet. That’s what’s important. He would be in Congress regardless of what his name is. ... He’s demonstrated nothing but a willingness to do the grunt work like the rest of us.”

Back in his Massachusetts district, Kennedy has drawn admiration and curiosity in an overwhelming Democratic state where the family name is an institution. Ted Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, is still mentioned as a potential candidate for statewide office. And Ted Kennedy Jr., 51, has considered political runs.

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