Ted Kennedy Jr. FES ’91 announced on Wednesday that he will not seek a third term in the Connecticut General Assembly in order to focus on advocating for disability rights at the federal level.
Kennedy, the son of the late Massachusetts senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy, has been hailed as a star in the Connecticut Democratic party and suggested as a potential candidate for governor. He has represented Connecticut’s 12th Senate District since 2015 and became chairman of the American Association of People with Disabilities last June. Kennedy, who lost one of his legs as a child, announced his decision in a post on his Facebook page on Wednesday night.
“Instead, I plan to focus my attention and energy on my long standing work as a disability rights lawyer and advocate for inclusion and justice for people with disabilities. This is a cause that I have championed since losing my leg to bone cancer when I was 12 years old,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, many of the civil rights gained by people with disabilities are now under imminent threat, as the current federal administration is working to dismantle these hard-fought rights, achieved over the past two decades through bipartisan efforts.”
Kennedy said he plans to use his experience in politics and background in health and disability law to bring national attention to the harmful changes made by the current presidential administration. He also said he hopes to prevent the elimination of home care services and maintain protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
A Branford lawyer, Kennedy has served on AAPD’s board for more than 15 years and has also served as a board member of Special Olympics International and Connecticut’s Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. He served on former President Ronald Reagan’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and aided the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which former President George H.W. Bush ’48 signed in 1990.
Joyce Bender, vice chair of AAPD, said the board is lucky to have Kennedy serve as chair and that it is “too bad that we don’t have more people like him in this country.” Bender, who serves as the chair of the National Epilepsy Foundation, has worked alongside Kennedy for over a decade. She said she believes one of the reasons he has focused his efforts on advocating for disabilities rights is to carry on his father’s legacy.
“His father was absolutely a key leader in the disability community,” Joyce said. “He was the champion in the Senate for people with disabilities. And Ted [Jr.] wants to carry that on, and we are just so lucky to have him. He is very passionate, especially about the employment of people with disabilities.”
Kennedy has also been credited for his work in encouraging companies to register for the Disability Equality Index, a joint initiative of the AAPD and the U.S. Business Leadership Network. The DEI is an annual benchmarking tool that scores participating companies based on their disability inclusion policies and practices. Bender said Kennedy has become a “national spokesperson” for the initiative.
A graduate of Wesleyan University and Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Kennedy earned a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law and is currently a partner at Epstein Becker & Green.
Caroline Moore | firstname.lastname@example.org