For the first time in decades, Congress will be without an elected Kennedy. Patrick Kennedy, Congressman from Rhode Island and son of the late Massachusetts senator, Edward “Ted” Kennedy, has decided not to seek a 9th term.
After a difficult year which included personal problems as well the death of his father, the younger Kennedy declined to give any specific reason for not seeking office again, but said his life will be taking “a new direction.”
According to the Boston Globe there has been an elected Kennedy in public office since 1947. The Kennedy family has been America’s royal family, with its dramatic good fortune, public service, talent and glamour, as well as its terrible tragedies. Each family member and there are many, has experienced tremendous highs and good fortune as well as devastating lows.
42 year old, Patrick Kennedy is no exception. He grew up in the Kennedy spotlight. Both his uncles, President John Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy were murdered in the public spotlight. Patrick’s father, Senator Ted became substitute father to his brothers’ thirteen children and lived in fear of his own personal safety.
Patrick Kennedy was the third of three children born to Senator Edward Kennedy and his wife Joan. He graduated from Phillips’ Andover Academy and Providence College in Rhode Island. He became the youngest member of the Kennedy family to ever hold elected public office when he won election to the Rhode Island House of Representatives in 1988 at the age of 21.
Like many of his relatives, Patrick Kennedy has battled his own personal demons. Both his parents have battled scandal and alcohol related problems. Both parents divorced. Joan Kennedy, his mother has had frequent well publicized relapses from her battle with alcohol. His brother, Ted Jr. and his sister Kara have had cancer. Ted Jr. lost a leg when he was a child due to bone cancer. Patrick also has suffered from asthma his entire life.
On May 4, 2006, Patrick Kennedy crashed his 1997 Ford Mustang convertible into a barricade in Washington’s Capital Hill at 2:45 a.m. Police found him dazed and confused and brought him home. The next day he checked himself into the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where he had been treated previously for alcohol and prescription drug addiction.
The fragile Patrick has also wrestled with bi-polar disorder and depression. He has spoken outwardly about his recovery being a life long process. He was a leading voice in Congress working to remove the stigma of mental illness.
The death of his father, and election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts replacing him, may have influenced Patrick’s decision not to seek re -election. Also a recent poll taken in his district in Providence, Rhode Island indicated that 56% of Democratic voters viewed him unfavorably, while only 36% said they would vote for him.
Patrick Kennedy said that his dad told him that you do not have to hold public office to make a difference as most of the Kennedys have always been activists in all sorts of causes and public service.
Patrick Kennedy wants to continue his work to help those with depression, addiction, autism and post- traumatic stress disorder.