Congressman Joe Kennedy III addressed BC students Tuesday night in Cushing Hall regarding the two racist incidents that happened on campus over the weekend, including the defacing of Black Lives Matter signs in a residence hall and a racist social media post.
“I’d like to applaud those who stood up for their classmates,” Kennedy said. “[My wife and I] believe in this community and we believe in BC. We are here because we believe this is a community in which hate has no home.”
After a brief introduction by his cousin and College Democrats of Boston College (CDBC) events coordinator Saoirse Kennedy, MCAS ’20, Joe Kennedy shared his perspective on how students can impact the current direction of politics in America.
Kennedy then asked the crowd, “why are you here?” Taking suggestions from the audience, Kennedy created a list of the issues important to BC students, then narrowed it down to the crowd’s top three issues—women’s rights, health care, and gun violence.
“After you care about these issues, what do you do with them?” Kennedy asked the audience.
Kennedy urged students to act on the issues they are passionate about, stressing the importance of voting and reaching out to elected officials.
“How am I supposed to guess what you care about if you do not call, write, or vote? If you doubt that it matters, folks, look at what is going on around you,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy, referring to many Democrats’ disapproval of the Trump administration, made it clear that the parts of the administration non-Trump supporters take issue with cannot be solved by anyone else. He said that regardless of your political affiliation, millions of people do not believe they are getting the answers they want from the government.
“The process is dominated by those who care the most,” Kennedy said.
Despite openly stating his own disapproval of the Trump administration’s values, vision, and the type of politics they’ve engaged in, Kennedy said he still respects the fact that Trump is president and won the election. Kennedy said that there were approximately 63 million Americans that believed Trump would be a better president than his opponents and Kennedy respects those voices.
“I have deep concerns with the direction he’s bringing our country,” Kennedy said. “However, Donald Trump is a symptom and not a cause of the problems we are seeing in society.”
Referring to problems ranging from poverty and unemployment to education and a mental health system he described as “nowhere near adequate” across the country, Kennedy reminded students that these were all problems even before Trump came into office. According to Kennedy, Trump has tried to solve none of these problems but still, they are not his fault.
“Democrats do need to stand up and speak out when his vision infringes on our values, which is freedom,” Kennedy said. “But if you do that and do not spend time addressing the issues in our society that created the opportunity for Donald Trump’s rise, he’s going to be in office for eight years.”
Kennedy then spoke on the disconnect between politics and everyday life. He said that what was on the front pages of the New York Times or the Washington Post, like former FBI Director James Comey’s hearing, was not the most pressing issue for many Americans. He said that Russian interference in the election is a big deal, however, when someone cannot feed their family at night, Russian interference becomes issue number two.
“We need to ensure that we are addressing those concerns as well,” Kennedy said. “If these issues are not addressed immediately, it will become your problem in the not too distant future.”
Kennedy said that these problems will not be resolved if they are left for someone else to solve it. Voting decides who wins the election, he said.
According to Kennedy, college students have a remarkable history in our country, not just as students that are engaging and learning, but as a mirror that can reflect the values they are learning to those in power.
“You all have a chance to turn that mirror around and ask not only your community here in Boston, but your family and friends, ‘Is this really a world you want to hand over to us or is Donald Trump going to have to do it alone?’” Kennedy said. “And if he can’t, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. But do not shy away from that responsibility because if you do, we’re not going to be able to solve those problems and there will be even greater ones to take care of.”
Featured Image by Delaney Vorwick / Heights Staff