Leadership and legacy not synonymous

Similar to Washington, Clinton and Bush, Kennedy has been a name synonymous with political royalty for several decades. Not only has a Kennedy held the office of U.S. president, but also several Senate seats since John F. Kennedy’s election 56 years ago.

This Senate legacy continued with the elections of Edward and Robert Kennedy. With such a long list of prominent family members in office, it is no wonder that Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of our thirty-fifth president, expressed an interest in Hilary Clinton’s vacant Senate seat.

The U.S. Constitution states that a person must only meet three qualifications to become a senator. He or she must be at least 30 years old, must have been a U.S. citizen for nine years and must inhabit the state he or she wishes to represent. While these are the only legal qualifications needed to run for this office, other helpful qualifications include work experience, familiarity with public office and an ability to handle criticism and the public on a daily basis.

Kennedy, a lawyer and author, has never held a public office. Since becoming a registered voter of New York City in 1988, she has failed to vote in several general elections as well as Democratic primaries. As a mother of three children and an advocate of educational reform and women’s rights, Kennedy prefers to stay out of the spotlight and remain nonpartisan. Some of her few, true involvements with politics include endorsing a presidential candidate, speaking at the Democratic National Convention and serving on President Obama’s vice presidential search committee.

It was in her best interest to withdraw her name from consideration for the Senate seat. With the legacy of her father’s presidency in her past and her very limited political experience, Kennedy would not have been the best person for the job. Sure, she is a Kennedy, but that doesn’t make her any more qualified than the dozens of other hopefuls who were eying the same position.

The Kennedy name does not automatically come with strong leadership ability or political savvy. Could she handle the pressure of constantly being in the public eye or the criticism she would surely receive for her lack of experience?

In a recent interview, Kennedy stated that she would not run for the Senate seat in 2010 if she was not selected. This obvious disinterest for the position in the future forces me to question her passion for the job. If she really wants to bring about change, she should take the campaign road traveled by so many before her and run for office. The voters, not her legacy, should decide who is right for New York.

While many women supported Kennedy in hopes of having another female senator in New York, her withdrawal from the position does not take away from the fact that she is still a very strong and poised woman. She earned her law degree from Columbia Law School in 1988. While juggling her work, marriage and raising three children, she has been actively involved in philanthropic projects which benefit health care, the right to privacy and education.

While working as the director of the Office of Strategic Partnership for the New York City Department of Education, Kennedy helped raise $65 million for New York City’s public schools. This three-day-a-week job only paid her a salary of one dollar. Her commitment and loyalty to her community, as well as her passion for projects such as educational reform and helping others, cannot be questioned.

Though I admire Kennedy for all that she has done to serve her state and community, and though I am an extreme advocate of women in power, I can’t help but feel a little relieved that a woman with so little political experience turned down her consideration for the Senate seat.

She is an extremely important role model to women everywhere and does not need a Senate position to prove her strong dedication to service. She is living proof that a woman can bring about change in the midst of managing a career, a family and a very famous last name.