Washington The Kennedys have held congressional seats, the presidency and the public’s imagination for more than 60 years. That era ends when Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island vacates his U.S. House seat next month, leaving a city council post in California as Camelot’s sole remaining political holding.
The son of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy said he has no qualms about walking away from politics. His departure marks the first time in 63 years there won’t be a Kennedy serving in elected office in Washington.
“In my family, the legacy was always public service, and that didn’t necessarily mean public office,” Kennedy, 43, said in a recent interview on Capitol Hill with The Associated Press.
He recited a long list of Kennedy family members who have spurned politics and chosen lives as activists promoting issues such as the environment, human rights and women’s issues.
Kennedy plans to continue the tradition by championing a national effort to boost brain research. He hopes to inject the same urgency that his late uncle, President John F. Kennedy, inspired during the 1960s with his challenge to Americans to put a man on the moon.
Still, Kennedy’s exit from the nation’s capital marks a bittersweet turn for one of America’s most powerful and prominent political families, a family that has seen its influence in Washington fade in recent years as its younger generations have largely shunned public office.
“It is a milestone,” said Allan J. Lichtman, an American University history professor. “Frankly, it’s not as if there’s a new generation of Kennedys ready to move into public life in a major way.”
Politics was the family business, the lifeblood of a dynasty that often dominated the public stage with its triumphs, as well as its personal traumas.
The family name has been writ large for decades. Camelot. The New Frontier. Chappaquiddick.
JFK arrived as a young congressman in 1947, later capturing the White House and leaving an outsized stamp on the nation’s history. Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential ambitions were snuffed out by an assassin’s bullet, but he inspired generations of activists. Edward M. Kennedy was seen as one of the most influential senators in history.
Now it’s Bobby Shriver as the lone holdout in politics, serving as a city councilor in the seaside Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica.