Presidential Candidate: Robert Kennedy, Jr.

Robert Kennedy Jr. campaign website: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Official Campaign | Kennedy24

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I have been summarizing the opening campaign speeches from the presidential candidates. I have been trying to sift through the campaign rhetoric to pick out what they are saying about what they actually plan to do if they are elected.

Robert Kennedy Jr.’s speech was challenging for me because, while he shared plenty of observations and opinions about our history and current state of affairs, it was a little difficult to pick out what he actually plans to do.  I did my best to find what I could.  I don’t think my summary below captures all he had to say – but I did the best I could to capture anything that sounded like something he plans to do.

I have shortened and paraphrased quite a bit, but I tried to stick pretty close to his own words and to be fair in summarizing what I assume to be his platform for 2024.   I tried to include as much about how he plans to do these things as I was able to deduce from his speech. Due to Mr. Kennedy’s speaking style his answers are not as succinct as the ones I was able to pull out for some of the other candidates. – ABT

What he says he has done…

  • 35 years as an environmental advocate. My first case as an environmental lawyer was representing the NAACP in a lawsuit to stop putting a waste transfer station in the oldest black neighborhood in the Hudson Valley and I found out during that lawsuit that four out of every five toxic waste dumps in our country is in a black neighborhood.
  • I successfully sued the Navy to stop bombing probably the poorest community in our country the black and brown people who live on the island of Vieques (Puerto Rico) who are American citizens, but they are not treated that way.
  • At RiverKeeper we bought over 500 successful legal actions against Hudson River polluters.

What he says he will do…

Bi-Partisan Cooperation – We have a polarization in this country today that is so toxic and so dangerous ….  when I talked to both Republican friends and Democratic friends they talk about this division in almost apocalyptical terms.  Nobody can see a safe way or a good way out of it and people are preparing for kind of a dystopian future. One of the principal missions of my campaign and my presidency is going to be to end that division. I’m going to try to do that by encouraging people to talk about the values that we have in common rather than the issues that keep us apart, and also, and this I think is the most important thing, I’m going to do that by telling the truth to the American people.

Corporate influence on government – My mission over the next 18 months of this campaign and throughout my presidency will be to end the corrupt merger of state and corporate power that is threatening now to impose a new kind of corporate feudalism in our country, to commoditize our children and our purple Mountain’s Majesty, to poison our children and our people with chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs, to strip mine our assets, to hollow out the middle class and keep us in a constant state of War.

Environment – There’s no daylight between good environmental policy and good economic policy. You’ll hear this Mantra, this trope from the big polluters and their indentured servants on Capitol Hill and elsewhere that we have to choose between economic prosperity and environmental protection. That’s a false choice.  In 100% of the situations good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy.  One of the things that I’ve done over the past 30 years as an environmental advocate is to constantly go around and confront this argument that an investment in our environment is a diminishment of our nation’s wealth.  It doesn’t diminish wealth. It’s an investment in infrastructure, the same as investing in telecommunications or road construction. It’s an investment we have to make if we’re going to ensure the economic vitality of our generation and future generations.

Bureaucracy – You need a president at this time in history who can stand up to his bureaucracy. With most of our agencies the problem is the people who end up rising in those agencies generally are people who are in the tank with industry and that’s how they get corrupted. One of the things that I think I can do better than any other political candidate is I know how to fix them because I’ve spent so much time litigating and studying these agencies.

Health Care – I want to just talk about the chronic disease epidemic because to me, arguably, this is the worst attack on the middle class in this country. We have the worst health care system in the United States of America. We spend more on health care by far than any other country and we have the worst Health outcomes. We spend 4.3 trillion dollars annually on health. 4.3 trillion! And about 84% of that goes to treating chronic disease. America has the highest chronic disease burden in the world.  We didn’t always.   In 1940s 50s and 60s we had a really healthy population … Something happened in 1989 and we know that it is an environmental insult because genes don’t cause epidemics.  There’s a limited number of culprits of chemical toxins that became ubiquitous around 1989.  We just need to figure out what it is.  When I am the President of the United States, I am going to end the chronic disease epidemic in this country. If I have not significantly dropped the level of chronic disease in our children by the end of my first term, I do not want you to reelect me.

Ukraine – We need to have a national conversation about this war (in Ukraine). We need to have a mature conversation that allows for nuance and that allows for complexity, and we need to do it respectfully.  The number one issue that we need to talk about is, is this war in the U.S.  national interest. We just need to isolate that question.  Leading diplomats …Henry Kissinger, Jack Matlock, Larry Wilkinson … they all have said definitively, if you just want to ask if it is in our national interest, it is not it is not in America’s national interest to push Russia closer to China.  That is a cataclysm.  Number two, it’s not in our national interest to do something that could involve us in a nuclear exchange with a country that has more nuclear weapons than us.

Having said that I want to say that we are in the Ukraine for all the right reasons. We are there because we are a good people. I think that we need to know as Americans, and we have a right to know, what  our government’s chief objective is in this war. We were told initially that the objective was humanitarian and that is a good reason to be there.  What that means is trying to end the bloodshed and minimize it as much as possible.  But in recent times President Biden said that one of our objectives is regime change of Vladimir Putin.  This is the same strategy that did not work for well for us in Iraq.

I want to talk just a little about some of the costs of the war.  We’ve now committed a hundred and thirteen billion dollars to the Ukraine. For reference, the entire budget of EPA is 12 billion the budget of CDC is 11 billion.  57% of Americans cannot put their hand on a thousand dollars if they have an emergency. One quarter of Americans go to bed hungry.  We have 1.5 million veterans who are living below the poverty line. We have 33, 000 veterans who are homeless. We have 23 veterans a day who are killing themselves.  We have money for wars, and we have money for bankers that need bailouts.  What happens to the American people when they are on hard times. Shouldn’t we have compassion for them?  We are cutting American people off from the from the kind of aid that we should be giving, money that we’re instead spending on being the policemen of the world.

Military – We have 800 bases around the world now. We spend 8.8 billion dollars a year on our military. We were supposed to get a peace dividend after the Soviet Union collapsed. We were supposed to go from spending 6 billion dollars to spending 2 billion. Then we were going to spend the rest and build schools and infrastructure. Instead, we’ve made up a bunch of foreign enemies. Instead of dropping to 2, we raised it to 8.8.

Our entire strategy in the Mideast has utterly collapsed and our economy is going to follow if we don’t do something fast and I’m going to bring the troops home and I am going to start I’m going to close the bases and I’m going to start investing in the United States middle class in our country and I’m going to make us an exemplary democracy.

Culture – We have to be more than just neocons with woke bobble heads. We need to stand up to corporations.  We need to stand against war. We need to put our children first.  We need to bring this back to the party of FDR, of JFK, of RFK, of Martin Luther King and those values.

People in Need – My father when he came back one time from the Delta, we were all at the dinner table when he came in, and he said, “I was in a tar paper Shack today that was smaller than this dining room and there were two families living there and the children get one meal a day. When you get older, I want you to help those people. These are your people.” “These are Kennedy people,” he said. “The other people, the big shots, the corporations, the millionaires don’t need the Kennedys.  They have lobbyists. They have PR firms.  They have lawyers,” he said, “These are people you need to spend your life helping.”  When I’m president, I’m going to be president for those people.






  1. charles louis antonini on June 20, 2023 at 7:36 am
  2. Fay on July 31, 2023 at 8:07 am

    Great podcase episode:

    Also this? We were supposed to go from 6 billion to 2 billion. 6 billion what to 2 billion what?

    • ashleythornton on July 31, 2023 at 2:09 pm

      Good catch! I think he mis-spoke when he said we spend 800 Billion on military. I think he meant to say 8 billion. His point is that when the cold war ended we were supposed to get some of that money we were spending on back to spend on domestic priorities — we were supposed to go from 6 billion dollars down to 2 billion for military, but instead, according to him, we went up to 8.8.

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