In the United States, the Kennedys are revered as some of the most powerful political actors in modern history, but Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy Jr. said he rarely gets recognized in public.
Kennedy attracted no attention from the morning crowd at the Satellite Coffee on Central Avenue and Harvard Drive on Tuesday.
The 51-year-old, who embodies his family archetype in both looks and cadence, introduced himself as “Ted” to reporters and had two Obama campaign staffers with him but neither security nor bodyguards.
The businessman and long-standing advocate for people with disabilities is in New Mexico for a few days campaigning for the president and promoting early voting. Ted, who comes from a distinguished line of diehard Democrats, will make appearances in Santa Fe and Española, and spoke fondly of New Mexico and the people he’s met here on past visits.
“I think my family has always been really welcomed by the people of New Mexico, and one of the reasons I was excited about coming here is a lot of the friendship that people have shown,” he said.
Kennedy is the son of Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy Sr., who died in 2009. Kennedy was a child when his uncles, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, were assassinated in 1963 and 1968, respectively. The Kennedy family timeline is rife with stories of untimely death, “proof” of the so-called “Kennedy Family Curse.” And when Kennedy was 12, he lost his leg to cancer.
On Thursday, The Daily Lobo published an article about UNM’s struggle to secure funding to increase on-campus accessibility.
Kennedy said accessibility at universities is crucial to ensure people with disabilities are able to contribute to society.
“If people can’t get an education, they’re just going to sit, and they’re not going to be productive members of society,” he said.
Kennedy has been campaigning for President Obama’s re-election since Labor Day and was careful not to let the conversation stray too far off topic during Tuesday’s interview. He stressed the importance of the student vote in this year’s elections, and said lowering the unemployment and student loan rates are two of Obama’s primary goals.
“(President Obama) has ended the abuses of the student loan industry, and taken that money and put it into Pell grants, which I think really resonates with young people,” he said.
In addition to campaigning for the president, Kennedy keeps a full-time job as the president of the Marwood Group, a consulting group that helps health care companies adjust to the standards mandated by the Affordable Care Act, which takes full effect in 2014. He also works with the American Association of People with Disabilities as an accessibility advocate, and most recently has been pushing for new guidelines that would increase the accessibility of hotel swimming pools.
In August, tabloids reported rumors that Kennedy called singer Taylor Swift, who is dating Kennedy’s 18-year-old cousin, Conor Kennedy, a “Kennedy groupie.”
“She (Taylor) is a great person,” he said. “I don’t hate her. I don’t even know what (the tabloids) said I said, but it was completely untrue.”
And Kennedy said balancing work, the campaign and accusations that he hates Taylor Swift can be wearing.
“I’m pretty tired,” he said.
Kennedy’s brother, Patrick Kennedy, left the House of Representatives in 2010, a departure which marked the first time in more than 60 years that Washington was without a Kennedy family member. Kennedy said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of running for office someday.
“It’s something I think about, but I have no immediate plans,” he said. “If the right opportunity came up, I would seriously consider it.”