The Lenox Hotard American Legion Post meeting hall swelled up with people like I have never seen before at that venue. At one point it looked as if those not yet allowed in would have to be shut out for fear of action by the Fire Marshal, but seats for everyone were found.
This was the scene Friday when hundreds of shrimp fishermen, their spouses, children and besties turned out for a Louisiana Shrimp Association meeting, where the topic was low shrimp prices and what to do about them.
The details are covered elsewhere in this newspaper. But in this space I had to share what I witnessed in terms of the speaker who drew perhaps the most attention.
Dressed in a khaki shirt and jeans, U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy spoke about his understanding of the issues, and also about some potential solutions And he certainly proved to me that he is a man to be watched closely, because he’s got a career ahead of him.
Prior to the senate run Kennedy was the Louisiana State Treasurer, a post he held since the year 2000. He’s a native of Centreville, Ms. but was raised in Zachary, not far from Baton Rouge. In 1973 he earned a diploma magna cum laude from Vandebilt University in Nashville. He then went on to study law at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville. This guy is no slouch, either. going on as he did to earn a Bachelor of Civil Law Degree at Magdalen College, Oxford.
When he addressed fishermen Friday Kennedy displayed confidence and mastery of his subjects at hand and he had obviously done his homework.
He also didn’t do what a lot of politicians have done in the past, which is give a self-congratulatory address and move on.
For nearly two hours Kennedy sat at a table with other officials and he listened. It was during this listening that he seemed to do his level best, because he did not once look away at a cell phone or text messages on some other device. He looked steadily at the men and women who had come to share their unfortunate stories.
During his time as state treasurer Kennedy sent out lots of press releases, mostly indicating what he though was wrong with how the state was managing its fiscal affairs. He was among the first people in Bobby Jindal’s Republican Party to clearly state that the emperor had no clothes, and since entering the senate he has displayed similar courage.
There are some core things that are part of Kennedy’s overall agenda that not everyone I know agrees with. But sometimes a person’s political views are transcended by what appears to be a desire to do good, and a sincere display of caring for people who are marginalized like our shrimping families.
Sometimes indications that an individual does not march lockstep with his party but has enough gumption and enough of his own sense of right and wrong to be considered an asset of the people. Kennedy certainly displayed this Friday, and likely will have opportunities to display it again.
He may be that rare political animal that despite party affiliations can accomplish great good through compromise and outreach to all in government, and in the long run be helpful to the public at large.
His doctrines may be a little too Trumpian, but that is a given in the current political climate, and maybe he sees something in the president that some of us don’t I’m certainly willing to put such differences aside, at least enough so that I can more clearly and less dogmatically evaluate his future political career and the moves he makes toward them.