Our government hasn’t been without a Kennedy serving in national office for more than 60 years. Ever since John F. Kennedy was elected a congressman for Massachusetts in 1947, we’ve had a steady supply of them. But soon, no longer. Patrick Kennedy, a Democrat from our very own Rhode Island, is the last of them, and on February 12 he announced in a YouTube video that he is leaving the family business: he will not seek re-election to congress.
Needless to say, Kennedy all but grew up in politics. In an interview on Friday he said that where some people “say they are getting out of politics to be closer to their families,” he actually had to do just the opposite. Although he’s been serving in elected office since he joined the Rhode Island House of Representatives at the tender young age of 21, Kennedy has not had an easy time of it, and in part, family’s to blame. His mother, Joan Kennedy, has been struggling with alcoholism for years, and his father, Senator Edward Kennedy, had a series alcohol-related troubles early in his career. Patrick Kennedy himself has had his share of difficulties, too. He overcame an addiction to cocaine as a teenager, and while in Congress struggled with depression, bipolar disorder, and an addiction to painkillers.
Though he did not specify his reasons in the announcement, family also seems to be a large factor in Kennedy’s decision. The death of his father, who he described in the announcement “as my most cherished mentor and confidante, my ultimate source of spirit and strength,” from a brain tumor several months ago left Kennedy devastated. It only added insult to injury when Republican Scott Brown recently won his father’s seat in the Massachusetts senate, in an upset that Kennedy called “a joke.” Now, Kennedy says, his life is “taking a new direction.” He hasn’t said yet what that direction might be, but given his own mental health struggles, he has long fought to support those suffering depression, addiction, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and says he will continue to do so.