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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an American environmental lawyer, activist, author, and political candidate. He is the son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy. He is also the founder and president of Waterkeeper Alliance, a non-profit organization that works to protect water resources around the world.
Early Life and Career
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was born on January 17, 1954, in Washington, D.C. He grew up in a prominent political family, surrounded by his father’s campaigns and public service. He attended Harvard College, where he majored in American history and literature. He also studied at the London School of Economics and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia.
Kennedy began his career as an assistant district attorney in New York City, where he prosecuted environmental crimes and consumer fraud cases. He later joined the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental advocacy group, as a senior attorney. He also became a clinical professor and supervising attorney at Pace University School of Law, where he taught environmental law and co-directed the Environmental Litigation Clinic.
Kennedy is widely recognized as one of the most influential environmental leaders in the United States. He has been involved in numerous campaigns and lawsuits to protect the environment from pollution, corruption, and corporate greed. He has also written several books and articles on environmental issues, such as Crimes Against Nature, The Riverkeepers, and Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak.
Kennedy is the founder and president of Waterkeeper Alliance, an international network of more than 300 local organizations that patrol and protect over 2.5 million square miles of rivers, lakes, and coastlines in six continents. He is also a board member of several other environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Riverkeeper, and the World Wildlife Fund.
Kennedy has been active in politics since his youth, following his father’s footsteps and supporting various Democratic candidates and causes. He has also considered running for office himself several times, such as for the U.S. Senate in New York in 2000 and 2004, and for governor of New York in 2010.
In 2023, Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, hoping to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2024 election. He ran on a progressive platform that emphasized climate action, health care reform, criminal justice reform, and campaign finance reform. However, he faced stiff competition from other well-known candidates, such as former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
On October 9, 2023, Kennedy shocked the political world by dropping out of the Democratic race and declaring his intention to run as an independent in the general election. He said he was disillusioned with the Democratic Party and its policies, which he claimed were influenced by special interests, corporate donors, and political elites. He said he wanted to offer a “third way” for voters who were dissatisfied with both parties.
“I have come to realize that the Democratic Party is no longer the party of my father, nor the party of the people,” Kennedy said in a video statement posted on his website. “It has become a party of special interests, corporate donors, and political elites who have abandoned the principles of justice, equality, and democracy that my father fought for.”
Kennedy said he would run as an independent with the support of a grassroots movement that he called “The New Frontier”, named after his uncle President John F. Kennedy’s vision for America. He said he would focus on addressing the climate crisis, expanding Medicare for all, reforming the criminal justice system, and restoring trust in government.
“I believe that our country needs a new direction, a new vision, and a new leadership that can unite us and inspire us to create a better future for ourselves and our children,” Kennedy said. “I believe that I can be that leader, and I ask you to join me in this historic campaign.”
The environmental campaigns that Kennedy has been involved in:
Some of the environmental campaigns that Kennedy has been involved in are:
- Waterkeeper Alliance: Kennedy is the founder and president of this international network of more than 300 local organizations that patrol and protect over 2.5 million square miles of rivers, lakes, and coastlines in six continents. The alliance aims to promote clean water and hold polluters accountable.
- Natural Resources Defense Council: Kennedy is a senior attorney and board member of this leading environmental advocacy group, which works to safeguard the earth, its people, animals, and plants. He has been involved in numerous campaigns and lawsuits to protect the environment from pollution, corruption, and corporate greed.
- Riverkeeper: Kennedy is the chief prosecuting attorney and board member of this organization, which is dedicated to protecting the Hudson River and its tributaries from environmental threats. He has helped expose and stop illegal dumping, sewage spills, power plant emissions, and other violations of environmental laws.
- World Wildlife Fund: Kennedy is a board member of this global conservation organization, which works to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on earth. He has supported the fund’s efforts to protect endangered species, habitats, and ecosystems.
- Climate Action: Kennedy is a vocal advocate for addressing the climate crisis and transitioning to renewable energy sources. He has criticized the Trump administration’s policies on climate change and fossil fuels, and supported the Green New Deal proposed by some Democrats. He has also spoken at various climate rallies and events, such as the People’s Climate March in 2017.
Kennedy’s decision to run as an independent could have a significant impact on the 2024 presidential race, as he could potentially draw votes away from both the Democratic and Republican candidates. Some analysts have compared his move to that of Ross Perot, the billionaire businessman who ran as an independent in 1992 and 1996 and received about 19% and 8% of the popular vote respectively.
However, Kennedy faces many challenges and uncertainties as an independent candidate, such as securing ballot access in all 50 states, raising enough money to compete with the major parties, and gaining media attention and public recognition. He also risks alienating some of his former supporters and allies in the Democratic Party, who may see him as a spoiler or a traitor.
Kennedy’s announcement came as a surprise to many political observers and commentators, who had expected him to drop out of the race altogether or endorse another candidate. His departure leaves 12 candidates remaining in the Democratic race, with former Vice President Joe Biden leading in most national polls, followed by Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.