Photo courtesy of Frances Christianson

Representative Kennedy Talks Racism, Trump, and Student Activism at BC

Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy III addressed a full audience on Tuesday night to discuss the current state of politics in America.

Organized by the College Democrats of Boston College, the event provided an opportunity for students, faculty, and the public to hear Rep. Kennedy’s thoughts and ask questions on the issues the country is facing under the Trump administration.

Kennedy has been serving as the representative for the 4th District of Massachusetts since 2013 and is the great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy.

The event began with Rep. Kennedy addressing the racist incidents that took place on campus over the weekend. “I want to applaud those of you who stood up for your classmates. It is a challenging time in many parts of our country but we [Rep. Kennedy and his family, who live in Newton] are here because we believe this a community where [racism] has no home.”

The discussion then opened up to the audience, who were asked to shout out issues they care about. Problems included healthcare, gun control, the state of Puerto Rico, and women’s rights, among others.

In response, Rep. Kennedy raised the question of how to take action when met with these concerns. His answer was that “with government, like almost everything else, you get out of it what you are willing to put into it.” The representative stressed the importance of voting, in addition to calling and writing lawmakers. “How am I supposed to know what you care about if you don’t call, write, or vote?” he remarked.

After making this point, the conversation turned to the Trump administration. Rep. Kennedy, a member of the Democratic Party, made it clear that he is not a fan of President Trump. “I have deep concern for the direction in which he is bringing our country, his values, his vision, and how he struggles to actually govern our country.”

The representative believes that President Trump is “a symptom and not a cause of the disruption seen across our society.” Issues such as income inequality and the state of our mental health system existed prior to the Trump presidency according to Rep. Kennedy, but he noted that President Trump is not trying to solve any of these problems.  

“Let’s be clear, Donald Trump is causing fissures. But there are fissures that I believe existed before he came into office, that gave opportunity for his rise. And Donald Trump has poured gasoline on those fires,” said Rep. Kennedy.

Rep. Kennedy’s criticism of Trump extended from the way he handled Charlottesville to his tweet about banning transgender people from the military. “You don’t govern by tweet,” he stated.

The partisan divide in the country has been exacerbated since President Trump first began campaigning for the 2016 election. Rep. Kennedy shared his opinion on the state of matters in Congress, specifically the division between parties. “I think we are in the midst of a massive socioeconomic transition at the moment,” he explained. “You can feel the party bases shifting.”

Rep. Kennedy concluded his talk by bringing the conversation full circle and once again emphasizing the importance of taking action. “These problems are not going to get solved if people leave them for somebody else to solve,” he said, calling college students in particular to action.

“College students have a remarkable history throughout our country as not just students that are engaging in learning, but as a generation that is coming of age and can be a mirror,” said Rep. Kennedy. “You all have a chance to show your community here and your family, friends, and parents back home, by turning that mirror around and saying, ‘Is this really the world that you want to hand over to us?' You’re going to have to do better. And if you can’t, we are going to do it ourselves."

This assertion about the need for action made by Rep. Kennedy comes at an important time in the BC community, when various organizations and students are taking a stand in response to racism on campus.

Patrick Coyne, MCAS ‘18, president of the College Democrats of Boston College, noted, “It’s not just happening at BC; it’s happening around the country, and this racial divide is due to the inability of our president and [many other] people to bring up these issues.” Coyne commented on the importance of having Rep. Kennedy come to BC, stressing the need to “bring up the fact that there is a racial divide and that we need to [encourage] our members of Congress and elected officials to do something."

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