Who Is Robert Kennedy Jr.?

Lumara Lee

Robert Kennedy Jr. was born in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 1954 to Ethel and Robert F. Kennedy, a United States Senator who was assassinated in 1968. He was the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Robert Kennedy Jr. received a bachelor’s degree in literature and American history from Harvard before going on to obtain a degree in law from the University of Virginia and a Master of Environmental Law degree from Pace University. He has devoted his career to working with various environmental groups to defend the need for clean water.

Robert Kennedy Jr. received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard.
Robert Kennedy Jr. received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard.

Kennedy has written numerous articles about the environment which have been published in many prolific magazines and newspapers, including Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times. He has also written two books with environmental themes titled Crimes Against Nature and The Riverkeepers. Other books he published include a biography about Judge Frank M. Johnson and several books for children.

Robert Kennedy Jr. was the son of Robert F. Kennedy.
Robert Kennedy Jr. was the son of Robert F. Kennedy.

Robert Kennedy Jr. used his legal talents to help New York’s Riverkeeper group successfully sue companies that were polluting the Hudson River. Many give him the credit for cleaning up that waterway. His efforts received attention from Time magazine, which named him one of the "Heroes for the Planet".

Robert Kennedy Jr. was the nephew of President John F. Kennedy.
Robert Kennedy Jr. was the nephew of President John F. Kennedy.

He has served as the chief prosecuting counsel for Riverkeeper and as president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization that inspired other such organizations to form around the world. Robert Kennedy Jr. also worked as a professor and supervising counsel in the Environmental Litigation Clinic at Pace University. His other accomplishments include being a co-host of the Air America radio program Ring of Fire and serving as a senior counsel for the National Resources Defense Council.

His work to defend and improve the environment is not solely concentrated on the United Stats. He has also helped tribes in Canada and Latin America negotiate treaties protecting the resources of their territories. Robert Kennedy Jr. expanded his environmental advocacy beyond protecting watersheds by promoting the construction of wind farms and other sources of sustainable development.

In addition to his work in the environmental movement, Robert Kennedy Jr. is a staunch advocate of free market capitalism. He claimed that companies that pollute are actually subsidized by the taxpayers via laws passed specifically to benefit those industries. His belief that free market capitalism would prevent this type of political cronyism sets him apart from the average environmentalist.

Robert Kennedy Jr. works to defend the environment by promoting wind farms and sustainable development.
Robert Kennedy Jr. works to defend the environment by promoting wind farms and sustainable development.

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Discussion Comments


@MissDaphne - I agree with you about his stance on vaccination and autism. There simply is no evidence linking the two. I actually know of one couple with an autistic child and they believed that his autism is the result of his having received vaccination.

I had no idea at the time where they got that idea, but I had heard other people say the same thing. Now I find out that Robert Kennedy Jr. espoused the same idea.

Until I see the hard science, I can’t believe this could be true. To me this is conspiracy theory gone amok.


@truman12 - Frankly, I think we need more environmentalists in the mold of Bobby Kennedy Jr. – someone who believed in the forces of the free market.

If you don’t support free market capitalism, then you are only lending credence to the idea that environmentalism and socialism (the antithesis of capitalism) are the same thing.

If that’s the kind of association you want, more power to you, but I can tell you it doesn’t help the environmental movement any. There are already many people who think that the environmental movement has become a far left, fringe ideology, and opposing capitalism will do nothing to assuage those fears.


@jonrss - There seems to be strong public opinion on many of the members of the Kennedy family - both positive and negative.

There have been many environmental issues that Robert Kennedy Jr has addressed that have made significant impact on the world around us.

I live in a state that has a lot of wind energy farms. This is a renewable source of energy, and there seem to be more wind farms all the time.

I know he has been actively involved in the wind energy field, and I see the results of that every time I take a drive across my state.


@jennythelib - The last time I heard Robert Kennedy Jr speak, you could tell there was definitely something wrong with his voice.

I remember reading this condition affects women twice as often as men, but it is a very rare condition they have a hard time treating.

He has been so active in environmental programs, that I wonder how much this will impact his speaking engagements.

It has been a few years since I last heard him, so maybe he doesn't speak in public much anymore.


I heard that one of the Kennedy's is running for the Senate In Massachusetts? Is this right or am I just hearing some kind of election year rumor? Either way it would be an incredible achievement.

Say what you will about the Kennedy's but look at the record of public service that their family has with this country. And to have reached such high levels for generations. Even if you don't agree with them you have to admire all that they've done.


I also have a problem with his staunch support for the free market. As an environmentalist, I don't know how he can't see the benefits of regulations and institutionalized restraints as a way to keep the shortsightedness of capitalism from simply burning down the environment.

It is great to think for yourself, but you have to wonder why there are so few other environmentalists who champion the free market as passionately or in the same way as Robert Kennedy Jr? Sometimes you are different. Other times you are just wrong.


@MissDaphne - I didn't know that about him! I saw him speak at my college several years ago addressing environmental law, which I think is more his field. He was a very impressive speaker.

Apparently, though, since then Robert Kennedy Jr. has a voice problem. His voice sounds very strained when you hear him now, so I suppose he probably doesn't do as many public appearances as he used to. It's some rare condition called spasmodic dysphonia - I looked it up because I remembered hearing him sound so different before and I was curious what was wrong.

Evidently it strikes people at midlfe and it's terribly debilitating; people have left their jobs and stopped socializing because of their inability to communicate like they used to.


My problem with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is that he got himself involved with the anti-vaccine movement and continued with it well after the evidence was piling up that vaccine simply do not cause autism.

As a parent, I just feel that vaccines are way, way too important to mess around with. I'm not sure what his goal was - whether he genuinely believed that the vaccines were dangerous or just wanted to get his name in the paper - but when semi-famous people like him or Jenny McCarthy get involved in fringe causes, they can do so very much harm. Kids really do die of measles sometimes when not enough people are vaccinated.

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