If you close your eyes, Billy Kennedy could easily be confused with Jefferson Smith, the character played by Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra's 1939 classic film, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."
In the movie, the naive and idealistic Smith is appointed to the US Senate by a governor that kowtows to the state's top political boss. Smith runs into political corruption when he tries to advance a bill to create a national boys camp, and becomes discouraged. One of the most famous scenes in the film portrays Smith's marathon filibuster on the Senate floor. Jimmy Stewart's performance is the stuff of Hollywood legend, but his profound words are what stay with us forever.
Kennedy, the Democratic candidate for the US House District 5 seat, spoke with the same kind of idealism and conviction as Jefferson Smith during his address to the 5th Congressional District Democratic Party Annual Convention in Statesville on May 15. Kennedy talked about his personal philosophy and ethos, one that he learned from his parents -- an ethos based on the Golden Rule. He spoke of his love of farming, building houses and crafting furniture. He said his daily life connects him to the land, which has led him to become an environmentalist. Kennedy talked about his desire to leave his farm to his children someday, and to leave it better than he found it.
Unlike most politicians, Kennedy appeared comfortable in his own skin. He was approachable, engaging and genuine. More importantly, Kennedy was sincere in everything he said. He spoke off the cuff for more than 15 minutes, only referring to his notes at the end of his remarks. How refreshing it was to see a candidate that wasn't extensively rehearsed, a candidate who didn't repeat the same talking points at every single public appearance. The audience clearly appreciated Kennedy's sincerity. The candidate received two standing ovations during the event....
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