Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
Monday, May 05, 2003
By Patricia Sheridan, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
The oldest child of Ethel Kennedy and the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend made her political mark as the former lieutenant governor of Maryland. Though she lost her race for governor of that state, the lawyer and Harvard grad intends to keep contributing. She was at Chatham College recently to receive the 2003 Hollander Award for Women's Leadership.
Q. What do you see as the fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans?
A. Well, I think Democrats believe we should have an economy that helps all our citizens and creates opportunity. That means investments in education and investments in health care for all our citizens vs. giving a tax cut to the wealthiest one percent, particularly in time of war.
Q. What will it take to elect a woman president?
A. I think there are two things that are important to do. Get women elected as governors, so that people are accustomed to seeing women in executive positions. And I also think it's been very helpful to see women in combat, because one of the things you want from your president is the ability to protect the country.
Q. Are you interested?
A. Well, as you know, I've always had an interest in public life and public service and making a contribution. I think the answer is you have to make the contribution you can make in the right time and the right place. Right now I'm focusing on other things.
Q. Do you feel the need to run for something?
A. You can never say never. If it turns out that running is the right answer, then absolutely. I loved being in politics. I would have loved to be governor. And I so enjoyed everyday as lieutenant governor. There were lots of challenges, and I could make an enormous difference reducing crime and creating jobs and getting young people involved in service and making a difference in their communities. But I don't think I should spend every minute thinking about what the next race will be, because it prevents you from enjoying and taking pleasure in what you can do today. Life is short.
Q. Does the idea of a Kennedy curse annoy you?
A. I don't really pay that much attention to it. Because what does it mean? Look, there are a lot of other things that are important in my life. Discussion of philosophical garbage from talk shows is not one of them. So how's that?
Q. OK, are there more plusses or minuses connected to the Kennedy name?
A. Oh, more plusses. I am so blessed to have, and be part of, a family that has made such a contribution. Clearly there have been very painful times and very sad times, but I feel very fortunate.
Q. How painful is campaigning?
A. Oh it's not. It's great. It's so wonderful. As a columnist you must enjoy learning new things and meeting new people. That's what you get to do in a campaign all the time. You get to see coal miners, new immigrants and biotech scientists who are discovering the genome.
Q. When a campaign turns personal, do you just develop a thick skin?
A. Well, you aren't totally immune, but the question is, what are you interested in? The great joy that comes from making a difference, meeting new people and seeing what's going on and finding out what we can do better outweighs the bad.
Q. What's your take on the Office of Homeland Security?
A. I did a lot with homeland security when I was lieutenant governor and I did not find that the federal government was very helpful. For example, on preparing us for bio-terrorism, which would involve beefing up the public health system, they talked a lot about it, but really weren't very helpful.
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