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kennedy3An interview with Mr. Chris Kennedy, a candidate for a Governor of the state

- Thank you for accepting this interview, Mr. Kennedy. If you have to summarize your political message in just a few words, what do you think they will be?
- I would like more than anything else to restore the American dream to the people of the state of Illinois and I believe that the dream, the promise of our country of unlimited freedom, comes from access to great education. And we need to provide that to the young people of our state. If we do, we'll fix every problem we have – from a shrinking economy to the idea that people are leaving the state – everything will get fixed, if we educate our young people.

–Mr. Kennedy, the website of your campaign says that you are aiming to be a "radical leader for Illinois" and that with our help you will "restore opportunity". Would you, please, elaborate more on your ideas?
- I want a "radical change", not a "radical leadership". And by that I mean we have to transform the state and reform it. Now 8/4 of the people who graduate are so undereducated that they need a remedial education in community college or a university. So, they are not free – they will never have the freedom of living in the Land of the free. We can fix that by fixing education – to do that we have to end the reliance on property taxes. To end that reliance we have to ban elected officials from being property taxes appeal lawyers, because that bans money from the system and then bans people from it. That's why I think we need a "radical change"- this is not an incremental change – this is a "wholesale" change of how we fund our schools. We are going to do it like the good states do.

- The state of Illinois is in a deep fiscal crisis and it has to deal with numerous issues such as sprawling gun violence, a crumbling public school system, inadequate health care, to mention a few. How much time will you need to fix these problems as a governor?
- I think the major issues that we face in the state are all solvable – they have all been solved somewhere else. So all we have to do is find the good ideas of other states and sometimes other countries on other continents. Then bring them to Illinois. I think for the issues that we face in our state, the major issues around healthcare, around education, around gun violence; we published a clear plan on the steps that we will take. We know how to fix the problems; we will have to have the will to get them done. And I think we can get them done in the first year, in the first few months. If we don't get them done in the first year, in the first few months we'll never get them done. And I don't think the Governor Rauner ever understood the importance of the first ninety days. And when he blew the first ninety days it was very hard to get traction again.

- There are 5 other contenders in the Democratic primary on March 20-th, 2018. Why do you believe you and Mr. Joy are the strongest candidates?
- I think our message is more powerful for millions and the message to bring a "radical change" is all around. This message again is how we fix our system of education, how we ban elected officials from having conflict of interest, how we get the dirty money out of politics and get the dirty politicians out of government; the idea that we don't want "leaders of servants", but we want "servant leaders". This is a different way to look at politics and the government of the state. The state is so used of having a "pay to play" culture, so only the worst are filled with passion and intensity. That's what we've been dealing with. So Ra and I represent the antidote to this. Many of the people who are running for a governor have been associated with the system – people like J.B. Pritzker, who is the poster child for "pay to play" politics. He is on those FBI tapes trying to "get good" with Governor Blagojevich so he might be appointed a treasurer of the state of Illinois. (They have FBI tapes of him now playing on television) I don't think people will be able to write him a check to become a treasurer - he ought to run for an office. This is what I am doing. We need to move away from "pay to play" and have the sort of servant leadership that I grew up with in the Kennedy family.

- You also said in this campaign "Let's stand together for Illinois". Has the time come for a new era of public trust between voters and politicians?
- I think there is a very little trust from the voters now and I think they, voters, believe, there is too much hypocrisy and not enough democracy. People are hypocrites – they look at themselves instead to look at the state they have been elected to serve. And you see that time and again – governors going to jail, our aldermen are being indicted or state reps and state senators being investigated. If we don't repair that trust, well I think, terrible things will occur indeed. One of the large banking institutions, I think it was Deutche Bank, issued a report about two weeks ago and they said that the great challenge to the United States was the growing incoming inequality and the politics of passion. They thought the two of those could combine and make it difficult to invest in the United States anymore. That's an incredible statement. The challenge of investing into the United States is the growing populism in our politics and the incoming inequality, and of course, those two are related. If we don't restore that American dream we put the country at risk, which is exactly what is Deutche Bank saying.

- I read recently an article about the new generation of Kennedys coming into the American political life. Your father Robert Kennedy, and your uncle the President John F. Kennedy, were amongst everything else warriors for social justice. How much of their idealism do you share?kennedy2
- I grew up as a Catholic and I believe in the notion of Catholic social justice. It is a hard concept to embrace or understand fully, but Pope John Paul II-nd tried when he spoke before the United Nations. He said to the people who assembled there – the leaders from all over the world – "Gentlemen, the measure of man's dignity is freedom. Freedom is the measure of man's greatness." So in that notion of freedom we have the essence of Catholic social justice and in the notion of freedom we have also the essence of our country. The idea that we celebrate Independence Day on the 4-th of July is that we celebrate freedom, because we think that's the word that describes the United States in its best. And freedom, I think, is passion around public service that comes from my family along with that notion of the civil rights movement. In the notion of freedom you have the fundamentals ideals of the Kennedy family, the fundamental ideals of the United States of America and the fundamentals ideals of Catholic social justice in a single word. That's what drives me.

- Mr. Kennedy, you took part in the presidential campaign of your uncle Ted back in 1980. What important lessons have you learned and do you plan to use some of this experience in your own campaign for a governor?
- Ted Kennedy ran against the sitting President of the United states, the head of the Democratic party in 1980 because he felt that the President and the party were not acting in the best interests of the Democrats and the people of the United states. He thought that Jimmy Carter had raised interest's rates on people so they could barely afford to live in their homes with mortgages becoming too expensive. The economic theory of the United States was that if we put enough people out of work we would save the economy for the big businesses. Ted Kennedy didn't believe that and he opposed the President with a willingness to be oppositional, to speak truth against power, to stand up for the voters, for the people who cannot stand up for themselves. And that's all the essence of what is to be a Kennedy Democrat.

- The political and the moral divide in the country are really serious nowadays. Any thoughts of yours of how this could be mended?
- I think it is a very dangerous situation we live in the United States today. I think the American dream is unavailable for too many people. They are angry. Today in the United States if you are poor you probably will stay poor, if you are born rich you will probably remain rich. If you are born in between you will have a life of "threat and hazard". People don't like that – they are angry and they should be. They are raging. And people like Donald Trump take that rage and they use it to their own advantage. But they have to channel it, so traditionally people like Trump start wars – they attack a neighboring country or another one around the world. Donald Trump may do that with North Korea, but another great strategy used by demagogues like him is to attack the immigrants – that's what's happening in the United States. He is blaming immigrants to this country for all of the ills and woes. And it is the immigrants to this country who have saved it repeatedly. That's why is dangerous to have a President like him. We have this enormous income inequality that is feeding the rage and the passion and we need to tell people the truth. We need to give them the tools that they could be too part of the American dream again.

- You have been involved with the arts for many years, but it seems that their role in the public life of Chicago has diminished recently. What do you think needs to be done so they could get their previous status back?
- I think arts play an incredible role for the life and the culture of any society. Particularly contemporary art is really important. And the challenge to any culture is to adapt. Darwin never said "the strongest survives" – he never said that. He said "the adaptable survives", but people misinterpreted that – they think of power, but it was flexibility and adaptability. The arts more than anything else teach us to be adaptable – they force us to look at the same subject from different points of view and to understand that we see things differently. Contemporary art in particular is challenging to people, so if you force yourself to engage with the arts don't fear to be different. If we fear the new and the different we'll never change, so we won't be adaptable and won't survive. And therefore, the arts matter not just to people who like the arts, but to the entire society – to create a culture that allows the new and the different to be accepted. And when we see the arts being pushed out of our schools, not celebrated by our community leaders, we threaten the very viability of our culture.


Text and photos: Vassi Vasevski

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