As the construction of The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate moves toward completion, Victoria Reggie Kennedy — legal strategist, financial attorney, and wife of the late Senator Kennedy — joined the President’s Forum Series with a lecture reflecting on governmental gridlock and bipartisanship.
Kennedy’s talk, “Dysfunction in Washington and Bi-Partisan Politics,” arrived as she oversees the development of the non-partisan organization named for her husband, created to educate the public about the unique role of the U.S. Senate in our democracy. As co-founder and president of the Institute’s board, Victoria Reggie Kennedy has provided leadership to spearhead the raising of $90 million to date and the construction of a 65,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building on the campus of University of Massachusetts Boston, adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Library. The new Institute is scheduled to open its doors in March 2015.
Kennedy’s talk was held on Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m., in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center. The event was free and open to the public. The talk was broadcast live on WEOS 89.5 FM and 90.3 FM and was available at weos.org.
An attorney, Kennedy initially focused her legal practice in commercial banking, savings and loans. She currently serves as the chief executive officer and consultant for VR Kennedy Strategies, a company that advises and assists clients in devising strategies to resolve complex business problems, particularly those stemming from regulatory, communications or governance concerns. Additionally, she assists clients in navigating federal administrative processes as well as in developing and executing strategies to expand their impact in the marketplace.
In February 2014, she was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as a member of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service. Along with three other nominees to the Postal Board, Kennedy currently is awaiting Senate confirmation.
Kennedy previously was a partner at Keck, Mahin and Cate, a large, multi-city, Chicago-based law firm. The focus of her legal practice was the representation of commercial banks and savings and loans for which she devised innovative strategies for recapitalization and reorganization and assured regulatory compliance. Her practice also involved the successful restructure and renegotiation of complex loan transactions on behalf of both banks and borrowers. She began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge Robert Sprecher in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.
Kennedy is a member of the advisory board of the global investment bank Houlihan Lokey. She is a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts where she chairs its Education Committee and is a member of the Board of Overseers of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, a lay initiative to assist Catholic Church parishes, church organizations and religious orders to promote excellence and best practices in management, finances and human resource development.
Kennedy is a member of the Commission on Political Reform, a project of the Bi-Partisan Policy Center launched in March 2013 to investigate the causes and consequences of America’s partisan political divide and to advocate for specific reforms.
Kennedy has been a long-time advocate for the protection of children, particularly through gun violence prevention. She was the co-founder and past president of Common Sense About Kids and Guns, a diverse coalition of gun control advocates, health professional and gun manufacturers working together to reduce gun deaths and injuries to children in the United States. She is also a past 10-year member of the Board of Directors of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In addition to her legal and consulting career, board service and non-profit leadership roles, Kennedy has served in key strategic and political roles on issues ranging from health and education to labor, especially as those issues affecting women and children, and she advocates for involvement in the political process. Kennedy was actively involved in the passage of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and stood at President Obama’s side at the signing of the bill into law.
She has received numerous awards including Honorary Doctorates from Boston University, Northeastern University, Montclair State University, University of Massachusetts Boston, Lesley University, Emmanuel College, Western New England University and Suffolk University Law School. She has been honored as a Distinguished Professor and Mentor at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Kennedy received a J.D., summa cum laude, from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans. She was a member of the Board of Editors and the Notes Editor of the Tulane Law Review. She earned a BA in English, magna cum laude, from Newcomb College at Tulane University and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
The President’s Forum Series, established in the winter of 2000 by President Mark D. Gearan, is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members. The most recent guest of the President’s Forum Series was William A. Galston, the Ezra Zilkha chair at the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, where he serves as a senior fellow.
Other recent speakers include Dr. Kathy Platoni ’74, clinical psychologist, author and retired U.S. Army Colonel; Todd S. Purdum, senior writer at POLITICO and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair; Gus Schumacher, executive vice president of policy and co-founder of Wholesome Wave; and Former Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress.