Townsend sheds light, wisdom on political issues
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 00:02
Students from three different classes gathered in the McKibben Honors Student Lounge Wednesday morning to visit with Woodrow Wilson Fellow Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who participated in an hour-long question-and-answer session.
The session began with a question from a student about the pressure Townsend faced to succeed growing up in the politically famous Kennedy family.
“Pressure helps,” she said. “It doesn’t help everyone, but it helped me. “
While the pressure was a positive force in her life, Townsend said some Kennedys faced tougher obstacles.
“Our family has alcohol and drug abuse problems; you may have read about them,” she said. “My cousin Patrick Kennedy went into Congress to be with his father, Uncle Ted, but Patrick was bipolar. Now, he is out of Congress and working on mental health issues.”
In keeping with the family’s tradition of dedication to service, Townsend answered a question about her decision to attend law school.
“I thought law was the way to change the country,” she said. “Lawyers brought the cases before the courts during the Civil Rights campaign.”
Protecting the environment was of interest to Townsend following law school.
“I once sued General Electric because they dumped a lot of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) in the Hudson River,” she said.
Townsend said in addition to protecting the environment, the federal government should take preemptive action against the mounting waste problem.
“We need to tax the waste,” she said. “We should be taxing our pollution. Singapore has such a good wastewater system they turn the waste water into potable water.”
Social justice is important as ever, Townsend said.
“We don’t spend money on education well; we don’t spread it around,” she said. “I sent my children to our local public school. My children are very fortunate, the teachers are experienced, and on this school alone we spend $300,000 more on salaries than the normal school. Why? The poor kids get the least experienced teachers, they have worse problems at home. That is just an easy description of why we don’t do well globally in education.”
Townsend said Congress needs to take a look at the inadequacies of social services in the country.
“Social security isn’t enough,” she said. “My daughter studied for a semester at a college in Denmark. They pay higher taxes so college and healthcare are free. Guess what? They’re happier than we are, too.”
The possible presidential run of Hillary Clinton was also a topic of discussion.
“Hillary is fantastic, wonderful, special and terrific,” she said. “I hope she runs. Hillary, like my family, believes that we’re not only with the winners, but we’re with everyone. We got to where we are because people helped us.”