Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Talks on Faith and Politics
Annie Backscheider, Tower Staff
November 11, 2011
Filed under News
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, spoke to The Catholic University of America this past Wednesday, November 9. Students on both sides of the aisle were ultimately impressed by the event, sponsored by the College Democrats. Peter Rescigno, a College Republican said, “John McCarthy did a great job organizing.”
Townsend emitted pure Kennedy charm with her witty and amiable personality. A crowd of around 75 people filled the Great Room in the Edward J. Pryzbyla Center, filling nearly every seat. Townsend’s charisma kept the speech upbeat and the audience entertained.
“[She] was definitely not advocating bipartisanship tonight. While she was very vocal about promoting her liberal ideology, she did totally engage the audience with her witty jokes and vibrant personality,” said Melissa Guay, a Republican politics major.
The crowd, both parties alike, enjoyed her sassy, quick-witted punch lines, and genuine excitement for politics, as well as her down-to-earth personality.
Townsend “was very inspiring for any Catholic student, Democrat or Republican,” says Marie Elena Castellano, a junior history major.
Townsend’s speech reflected on both her Catholic and political upbringing. As one of eleven children, she was raised to believe that in order to do anything important one must take risks. Her father, Robert Kennedy, raised her to believe in a “Big” God, to see a God that could possibly be of another race, sexual orientation or gender. Townsend challenges everyone to also adopt this universal view of a “Big” God.
In addition to the idea of faith, Robert Kennedy encouraged his daughter to “be kind to others, and work for your country,” she said, even in difficult times. He believed that through religion comes “Politics of Love.” Townsend encouraged students to remember that humanity has a right and responsibility to both justice and charity.
She believes that studying history can spread her father’s message. In response to being a woman in politics, Townsend explains that she is often judged for being a mother and for what she is wearing or not wearing. Instead, she wants to begin “fighting for Americans,” by bringing education and jobs to the American people.
Being a Catholic Democrat is also difficult for Townsend, as she cannot speak at most Catholic schools, unless it is a university or Jesuit institution. She wants to see change within the Catholic Church. She wishes the laity could have a say in who becomes bishop or pope. Townsend also believes that they should have knowledge of where their money is going through open book-keeping and that the laity should begin a reform movement.
In response to the issue of abortion, Townsend stated that when a Democrat gets elected, the abortion rates go down. She says that this results from the safety net ensued by higher taxes. With higher taxes, there are more opportunities available for the poor, which gives pregnant women with little money, hope for a brighter future for their children. Townsend also believes that the Church needs to build its credibility with women by giving them a greater voice specifically through ordained roles, such as female priests.
When asked why Catholics are generally perceived as conservatives, she explained that as people tend to become wealthier, they become more conservative. She says that this is due to the common misconception that Republicans are generally more financially successful.
Townsend believes that the media reflects what the people want, as it is human nature to take interest in gossip and fighting. If the people want real discussions, they must demand them. She also believes that one can reach out to others to the best of their ability through God’s intended vocations.
“I think it’s really great for the university that both the College Democrats and College Republicans had the opportunity to have an open dialogue with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend,” said Gina McLaughlin, a member of the College Republicans. “Katherine Kennedy Townsend was a wonderful example of the revolutionary female in American politics,” said Deirdre Walsh, a freshman history major.
“Seeing a fellow Catholic Democrat, and former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, where I am from, who also shares my beliefs of helping the poor through charity and justice is such a great experience,” said Danielle Rogers, a junior social work major.
Clearly, no matter what party, Townsend’s likable attitude made her presence at CUA a hit.