Without mentioning Trump's name, Joe Kennedy delivered a searing critique of the administration and a unifying message for Democrats

  • Rep. Joe Kennedy delivered an impassioned Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
  • The 37-year-old Massachusetts Democrat spent the first half of his speech criticising Trump and the second half delivering a unifying message on behalf of his party.
  • “The strongest, richest, greatest nation in the world shouldn’t leave anyone behind,” he said.

Rep. Joe Kennedy, a 37-year-old Massachusetts Democrat and a scion of the Kennedy political dynasty, delivered an impassioned Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

Kennedy spent the first half of his speech criticising Trump’s key policies and positions, including on immigration and healthcare, arguing that the administration is forcing the country to make “false choices” between different groups of vulnerable people.

“It would be easy to dismiss the past year as chaos. Partisanship. Politics. But it’s far bigger than that,” Kennedy said. “This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us – they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.”

Speaking to a gathering of students and community members in a blue-collar Massachusetts town, Kennedy argued that working class Americans are victims of economic inequality.

“As if the mechanic in Pittsburgh and the teacher in Tulsa and the daycare worker in Birmingham are somehow bitter rivals, rather than mutual casualties of a system forcefully rigged for those at the top,” he said.

Kennedy, who made his national debut with this speech, then pivoted to a unifying, positive Democratic message.

“So here is the answer Democrats offer tonight: we choose both,” he said. “We fight for both. Because the strongest, richest, greatest nation in the world shouldn’t leave anyone behind.”

Kennedy mentioned a list of key Democratic priorities, including “a health care system that offers mercy” and a strong, but more equal economy.

Addressing Dreamers – the 800,000 unauthorised immigrants who are protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – Kennedy briefly spoke in Spanish, which he is fluent in.

“Ustedes son parte de nuestra historia. Vamos a luchar por ustedes y no nos vamos alejar,” he said. “You are a part of our story. We will fight for you. We will not walk away.”

A Harvard Law graduate and former Peace Corps volunteer first elected in 2012, Kennedy is well-known among the party’s grassroots for his viral YouTube and Facebook videos of his speeches and floor remarks. In one such video, Kennedy called the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare “an act of malice.”

In his Tuesday address, the congressman credited regular Americans with marching for women’s rights and civil rights and for saving lives during natural disasters.

Without mentioning Trump’s name, Kennedy called him a threat to the country, but ended on a hopeful note.

“Bullies may land a punch. They might leave a mark,” he said. “But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defence of their future.”

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