Dec 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Outgoing Rep. Joe Kennedy focusing future beyond potential Peace Corps role

Joe Kennedy III
Joseph P. Kennedy III. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

While numerous people inside Washington have mentioned the possibility of outgoing Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III serving as the next director of the Peace Corps, the post isn't under discussion by the Biden transition and he is interested in other ways to serve the country, people familiar with the search tell Axios.

Why it matters: What seemed like a bright political future for Kennedy prematurely dimmed in September when he lost his primary to replace Sen. Edward Markey. Now, the Massachusetts Democrat is considering his next move, prompting talk of the Peace Corps post or U.S. attorney in Boston — neither of which have been discussed with him, the people said.

  • A person close to Kennedy said they had never heard U.S. attorney mentioned, and that while Kennedy loved his time in the Peace Corps, he would hope to serve the country in some other way than as its director. A Biden transition official said the Peace Corps job is not yet being actively discussed, and the official also did not believe Kennedy would be interested in the post.

Background: The Peace Corps was founded in 1961 by Kennedy's great-uncle, President John F. Kennedy. Its volunteers provide international social and economic assistance.

  • Its first leader, Sargent Shriver, was the husband of his great-aunt Eunice Shriver.
  • The agency's director and deputy director are appointed by the president. The Peace Corps is currently led by Josephine (Jody) Olsen.

Joseph Kennedy, a fluent Spanish speaker, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic between his graduation from Stanford University and matriculation at Harvard Law School.

  • If he were to be named director, Kennedy would be an RPCV — Returned Peace Corps Volunteer — to lead the agency, like the first, Carol Bellamy.

Flashback: Kennedy once told U.S. News & World Report about an elderly man thanking the Peace Corps for providing his village with clean water.

  • "To me, that's what the Peace Corps is all about — the impact that simple acts of service can have across borders, generations and time," Kennedy said. "It's a lesson I carry with me every day.

Editor’s note: Corrects that Carol Bellamy was the first volunteer to serve as Peace Corps director, not the only one.

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