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Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III will be the Democrat responding to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday – but who is he?
The 37-year-old rising star in the Democratic Party comes from one of the most prominent families in American politics, as the great-nephew of former President John F. Kennedy. He will follow in the footsteps of his great uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was part of a group response to President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union in 1982.
Before he was selected for the address, Kennedy was mostly viewed by his own party as a low-key member of a political dynasty who is strategically inserting himself into policy debates and laying out what he thinks Democrats still need to learn.
His State of the Union response will be an opportunity for him to shine in a party where many in the senior ranks are well into their 70s.
CNN Original Series “American Dynasties: The Kennedys” premieres Sunday, March 11, at 9 p.m. ET.
“From health care to economic justice to civil rights, the Democratic agenda stands in powerful contrast to President Trump’s broken promises to American families,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Our vision for this union is guided by a simple belief that equality and economic dignity should be afforded to every American. I’m honored to have been chosen by Leader (Nancy) Pelosi and Leader (Chuck) Schumer to deliver our party’s response.”
Last year, Kennedy, who’s currently serving his third term in the House, garnered national attention during the health care debate when he delivered an emotional speech that went viral.
During a marathon committee markup on the Republicans’ Affordable Care Act repeal and replace bill, Kennedy slammed House Speaker Paul Ryan, specifically taking issue with the fellow Catholic’s interpretation of scripture and label for the the measure as an “act of mercy.”
Kennedy denounced the proposal to repeal and replace Obamcare as an “act of malice.”
He was born and raised near Boston with his twin brother, Matthew Kennedy.
He received his law degree from Harvard Law School and his undergraduate degree from Stanford University. He also played lacrosse in college and served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic for two years.
Before being heavily recruited to run for the seat of retiring Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, Kennedy worked as an assistant district attorney.
He serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and has advocated for LGBTQ rights and immigration reform.
He told Politico last year he has respect for both Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and has no plans to challenge either of them for their seats. He said his connection with Warren is personal – Kennedy met his wife, Lauren, in Warren’s class at Harvard Law.
Kennedy will be the first Massachusetts lawmaker giving a State of the Union response since 1985.
CNN’s Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.