US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III said Friday he sees no reason for a change in leadership at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, which has experienced significant turmoil in recent months.
“I don’t have any major concerns over what’s happening at this point,” said Kennedy, in a wide-ranging, on-stage interview with the Boston Globe that also touched on conflict in the Middle East and the congressman’s impending fatherhood.
The foundation, a nonprofit that helps raise money for the presidential library that bears Kennedy’s great uncle’s name, has seen substantial staff turnover since Heather Campion took over as chief executive a year and a half ago. Critics have blamed her management style for the upheaval, while defenders say the churn is the byproduct of a shift in strategy she was hired to implement.
Kennedy, who said he had no official affiliation with the foundation, echoed that argument Friday, saying Campion was brought in “to move the organization in a different direction.”
“So I think part of that change and turnover is healthy,” he said. “I think the critical thing going forward is that there is more communication, people are bought in around it, and there’s a clear idea of what’s going forward. And I think they’re working on that.”
Kennedy, a Brookline Democrat, appeared as part of the Globe’s Political Happy Hour series, a live interview series with political leaders at Suffolk University. The interview focused, in part, on the representative’s famous political family and the controversies that sometimes swirl around it.
Kennedy said he has not yet read former US representative Patrick Kennedy’s book “A Common Struggle,” which angered some family members for its depiction of Patrick’s father, the late US senator Edward M. Kennedy.
“Between the policy papers, the newspapers, and the baby books, the reading stack has been pretty high of late,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll read it at some point.”
Kennedy added that he was proud of Patrick Kennedy and called him “truly one of the country’s leading advocates for mental health awareness.”
Joe Kennedy comments on family memoir
Kennedy is the only member of the family currently in Congress. But he brushed off suggestions that he is the keeper of the clan’s flame, saying he is just trying to make a contribution. And that’s difficult, he suggested, as “a sophomore member of the minority party of the second-least popular Congress of all time.”
Kennedy reiterated his long-standing concern about the American role in Syria. And he declined, when pressed by Globe reporter Joshua Miller, to fault Israel for the stalled Middle East peace process.
Instead, he stuck to a general lament of the violence that has flared up in the region.
“Loss of life, whether that’s in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, in other communities around Israel or the West Bank is absolutely tragic,” he said, choking up as he recalled the memorial service for Richard Lakin, a retired Newton elementary school principal who was shot and stabbed in a Jerusalem terrorist attack.
Kennedy on Israeli/Palestinian violence
Kennedy weighed in on a couple of state issues, reiterating his support for Beacon Hill legislation that would protect transgender people from discrimination at malls, restaurants, and other public accommodations and declaring his opposition to marijuana legalization, a matter that is expected to go before voters next year.
The representative parried questions about his political future, saying he was still learning his present job. “Folks, give me a break, right?,” he said. “Like, I just got here.”
Joe Kennedy on transgender rights in Mass.
Kennedy said he and his wife would also have plenty to handle with their first child, due around Christmas.
“She is doing wonderfully, thank you for asking,” he said of his wife, at one point during the interview. “I am freaking out.”David Scharfenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe