Nitze Senior FellowsSophie Delaunay
T. R. Reid
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
David E. Sanger
Edward P. Jones
Thomas Penfield Jackson
Benjamin L. Cardin
Paul H. Nitze Senior Fellow 2007-08
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and author of Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's 2007 book, Failing America's Faithful: How America's Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way (read by Nitze Scholars in the spring 2008 Leadership Tutorial, and discussed with her in a seminar), raises the issues of two forces integral to her life and to the life of her family: religion and politics. She brings a unique personal history to her involvement in politics and her reflections on such issues as the challenges for women in positions of leadership, and, during her tenure as Nitze Senior Fellow, her involvement in the presidential campaign leading to the 2008 election.
In her four visits to St. Mary's throughout the year, she gave four talks, in addition to meeting with many classes, student clubs (like the College Democrats, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and the Newman Society), and even conducted a discussion about life's hard lessons with a dozen students while kayaking on the St. Mary's River. The Washington Post did a feature (PDF) on her visits to campus.
Her four public talks were:
- "Failing American's Faithful: How America's Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way"
- "Women: Take Power Seriously...and How the 21st Century Is Women's Time"
- "Notes from the Front: The Presidential Campaign-Democracy's Alternative to War" in February, just after the Super Tuesday primaries
- "MLK and RFK...Remembering the Advocate and the Politician Forty Years Later" given on April 4, the 40th anniversary of the assassination of King. (Her talk included the recording of her father, RFK, talking from the back of a truck at the airport in Indianapolis, in the midst of his presidential campaign, informing the audience that King has been assassinated.)
Kennedy Townsend, first born of Robert and Ethel Kennedy's children, was still in Catholic grammar school when she learned a lasting lesson from her mother superior. In a sermon about the individual's responsibility to work for the well-being of community, Mother Mouton acknowledged that, yes, "Silence is golden." Pause. Then she added, "But sometimes it's just plain yellow."
Not that this was the first time that Kathleen had heard about speaking truth to power, or about committing oneself to the greater good of one's country. In her 2007 book, Failing America's Faithful, she remembers the November day in 1963 when her uncle, John F. Kennedy, was buried at Arlington. She was twelve at the time, and her father, Robert F. Kennedy, gave her a handwritten note: "As the oldest of the Kennedy grandchildren - you have a particular responsibility now. . . . Be kind to others, and work for your country."
Born in 1951, Kathleen Kennedy went through Stone Ridge School in Bethesda (Catholic, college preparatory), then graduated cum laude from Harvard with a B.A. in history and literature. In 1978 she received her law degree from the University of New Mexico and practiced law for several years. She and her husband, David Lee Townsend - a member of the faculty at St. John's College in Annapolis - have four grown children.
Kennedy Townsend has led an active political life, including the lieutenant-governorship of Maryland from 1995 to 2003. An online search will reveal years of service on an impressive series of board memberships and directorships, the greater number of which have focused on civil rights, AIDS, education, crime, and issues revolving around women, the family, and reproduction. She teaches at Georgetown's School of Public Policy, at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and is chair of the Institute for Human Virology at the University of Maryland. She serves on the board of the National Catholic Reporter, and in 1996 she chaired the Task Force on Affiliation between the Historic St. Mary's City Commission and St. Mary's College of Maryland.
But her current concern is with the failure of both the Catholic Church and mainline Protestant churches to lead the way - as they once did -- in addressing America's larger social problems. In their retreat from the exhausting upheavals of the 1960s, she argues, these historic churches have fallen back and allowed far-right evangelical denominations to set the national agenda on such shorter-range issues as sex and sexuality. Both of these issues inflame, divide, and distract the country from historic efforts to wrestle with health care, education, and race, all of which - she reminds us in Failing America's Faithful -- respond to the social imperative, "Love thy neighbor."