Notes from the Campaign Trail

Published by Amaryllis Kennedy on

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Edition #1

Back when I was a college kid studying in England, I fell in love with a radio broadcast called “Letters from America,” narrated by Alistair Cooke. Stories of everyday existence back in my beloved country made me feel less alone, somehow, in my wistfulness for America, my devotion to all that she is, and my hope for all that she might yet become.

In these last weeks since taking the helm of this campaign, I’ve come to recognize that same sense of homesickness in our movement. Only the home we all long for is a future America — one of health and wealth, of fellowship and freedom, of truthfulness and promise. We all know that this home exists just as surely as I knew mine lay across the proverbial pond, back when I was a lonely student in that chilly, British dorm. And so I figured that perhaps we should take a lesson from that old radio broadcast and share some weekly letters from across our national movement, to keep us all connected as, together, we walk home.

This first note is going to be a long one, so make a cup of tea and settle in…

There’s much exciting progress to report — ballot access plans and poll numbers, grassroots events and media awakenings, finance committees and mobile apps to fuel the historic work ahead. But before I get into all that, on this thanksgiving weekend, I want to start with the prayers.

Almost every day, sometimes several times a day, one of you writes to tell me that you are praying for Bobby, praying for our campaign, praying for our country. These notes mean more to me than I could ever say. I believe that Bobby was prepared by Providence for this moment and that every one of us, in our small way, has also been led through a series of lessons and experiences in this life that have equipped us with the unique fingerprint of insights and skills that we each need to play our supporting roles in the forces of light. 

Back in those undergrad Oxford days, I served as the sacristan of my college, Pembroke, and prepared communion in our beautiful chapel each Sunday morning, as many of my friends slept off their late Saturday nights. I was often a little groggy myself, truth be told, but there was something profound about that quiet morning crispness as I walked across Christ Church Meadows, where Tolkien is said to have opened C.S. Lewis’ mind to the existence of a higher power on an overnight stroll. The early sun would begin to clear the mist from the river as I made my way toward the dreaming spires of town, punctuated just as I arrived by dozens of hand-rung church bells from each of the colleges, beginning moments apart, like the singing rounds my grandma used to lead us in as kids. 

I have the same sense of breaking dawn about this moment. Bobby is leading us into the sun and the daylight is burning off the mists. It reminds me of wise old Ben Franklin’s quote at the end of the Constitutional Convention. Having mulled the half-sun carved on the back of George Washington’s chair all those hot, muggy Philadelphia months, he said as the last signature was added to our highest law, “I see now that it is a rising and not a setting sun.”

For the first time in my lifetime, Bobby is proving Ben Franklin right. And it is the highest privilege (and heaviest responsibility) I have ever known to lead this campaign beneath him. I do so as the steward of every American who yearns for the country they know lies just beyond the darkness of corruption and the mists of government lies. The country of our hearts. 

Each of you has been prepared for your role here, just as I have. Looking back on your life’s experiences, you may notice that you have seen and done things that make you uniquely qualified for your particular work supporting this campaign. A connecting of the dots. Seemingly random opportunities seized or challenges overcome or career moves made that now, years later, make sense as a sort of curriculum that delivered you to this very moment.

Take my life, for example. Three unusual professional phases that each taught me core lessons I needed for this work. 

First, my years at CIA, born of the desire to talk with our adversaries face-to-face, to understand them as humans rather than media cartoons, to see if maybe there wasn’t some different path to peace. I joined after 9/11, fresh on the heels of my twin degrees in international law and theology, trying to make sense of the goodness of people in the context of such violence and pain. The Agency was pitched to me as a secret version of the diplomatic service, building relationships with those adversaries too hostile for normal embassies and black-tie parties. 

I hadn’t yet read The Devil’s Chessboard or researched the full extent of our nation’s egregious intelligence crimes, but I knew that daylight was the best disinfectant and I pressed back in my interviews on the potential for abuse when work is undertaken in the shadows. “Oh, but the Church Commission!” I was assured and, naively perhaps, I reasoned that the best way to guard against future abuses was for good people to flood out the bad. Talking with enemies beats bombing them, after all, and I felt sure that my moral true north would keep the darkness at bay. What I didn’t yet know, in those young years, is that corrupt structures are designed to isolate lone lanterns in the basement — that only a removal of the roof up top can truly flood the entire house with light. 

Almost as soon as they hired me, I began flagging potential crimes and sending complaints up the command chain, making myself such a thorn in the side of the corrupt seventh floor that they shipped me out to the field in isolation, exiled from Agency offices and charged with safe-guarding those adversaries who put their own lives on the line to offer warnings before bombings that they privately feared would take too many civilian lives.

Side-lined though I was, I don’t regret the years I spent in that service. It gave me a lifelong understanding of the humanity of our enemies, to eat in their homes and play with their children. My job was never to lie to them — they knew who I worked for and that by sharing information with me, they were preventing this or that attack. Many of them had gotten themselves into something they had first believed was righteous and now wanted a way out. Wanted to preserve life instead of taking it. Often, I sensed that we were all just trying to escape the same darkness above us, the leaders on all sides of that endless war — and every war — who profit from the violence that tears the rest of us apart.

When word of the CIA’s abhorrent torture program began to emerge, I knew my little lantern in the proverbial basement wasn’t making any difference and I left in disgust. I took with me an unshakable devotion to ending the imperialistic impulses that I had seen claim so many innocent lives, to dismantling the heinous tentacles of our security services, and to lifting the shroud of secrecy that hides these abuses from the tax-payers who fund them.

For six years after that, I learned a different set of skills that I would someday need for this campaign — this time in the realm of business and tech. Unable to share my first-hand criticisms of the forever wars until my cover had been rolled back, I looked for another way to help make a difference while I waited. A friend of mine was blogging back then and explained that she paid her bills with affiliate links — the small commissions she received when a reader clicked on one of her product links to make a purchase. That seemed like a lot of spare change rolling around the internet that could add up to something good. So I hooked up with an engineering pal and built a little startup that used natural language processing to identify product mentions and make them shoppable, with the proceeds benefiting the charity of the readers’ choice. 

Born in a literal garage, our baby technology ended up being used by big publishers like Hearst and Conde Nast. We took venture funding, built a team of several dozen and raised over a million dollars for soup kitchens and animal rescue groups, hurricane relief and just about every other community cause you can imagine. I never liked the tech world very much, but it taught me an enormous amount about managing organizations and leveraging nationwide networks to do some real good. I took those skills to Twitter, where I ran product for their Consumer Commerce Division with an even bigger team, and got a first-hand look at the power and peril of Silicon Valley giants run amok.

Finally, in 2015, word came from on high that my old cover had been rolled back. My third professional chapter taught me the most, perhaps, in preparation for this campaign. It began the moment I could talk about all that I’d seen: the horrors of war and the Washington corruption that drives them. I left the tech world behind me and sat down to write a book. It talked about how young people get dragged into the illusion of battle in their blind desire to do something righteous. It talked about how if we stop to listen to our adversaries, we’ll find that they are ensnared in the very same trap. It talked about the corruption of our leaders and the profits that fuel the whole murderous system. And when I published it, the government went on the offense. They flooded the media with attacks and the Amazon reviews with trolls, just like they’d warned me they would. They even surveilled my emails, as I discovered from an anodyne notification that Google sent me three years after they had stopped.

But truth, as we know in this campaign, resonates at a different frequency from propaganda. Readers around the world reached out to tell me how my message of dialogue moved them, how they too felt it was time to dismantle the security state and break free of our leaders’ endless cycles of war. God cleared the way, then, for speaking truth to power. I made a Netflix series about the US Government’s militarization of the developing world. I wrote about the role of the spooks in the assassinations of the 60s. I investigated Lockerbie and Iran Contra and tied them together — the perfect example of blowback, when our country’s crimes contribute to costing our citizens their lives. I spoke all over the nation about a different path, a more human way forward. Eventually, I keynoted the midterm Libertarian convention, calling for an end to our war machine the same week I got married in 2018. And the man I married turned out to have a father who was fighting for these same things as well.

My mother says that coincidences are God talking. I hear those stories of synchronicity every day on this campaign.

In my case, the synchronicities began with this winding road I’ve just described, a path guided by instinct and grace, equipping me with just the right quiver of arrows to play my small role in this revolution of peace. From the CIA, I received my detailed knowledge of the corrupt forces we come to vanquish and the human suffering that will continue to result if we fail. From those days in business and tech, I received my gifts at building nationwide networks of people and organizing millions of small actions into large-scale impacts. And from my years publicly challenging our national warmongers, I received my rock-solid conviction that the lies of a corrupt few will never silence opposition voiced by the righteous rest.

Truthfully, when Bobby asked me to take over leadership of his campaign, every selfish part of me wanted to stay firmly planted in the wings. I’d been co-managing our efforts since the beginning and I felt confident about the tasks ahead, vast and vital as they were. But I knew that official leadership would bring with it all sorts of other psychic assaults — the media attacks and opposition smears that come with any visible role in the battle against tyranny. I have three cubs and worried about the effect on them. And I knew, too, that many in our movement would feel anxious about turning over the reins to a person who once worked at the very agency that has stamped out so many lives, encroached on so many liberties, and played what I believe to be an incontrovertible role in the assassinations of Bobby’s uncle and father.

As I have shared on social media, I deeply understand and appreciate this fear. If I didn’t know me, I would have it too. But alongside that understanding is my certainty that the only solution is for us to run a winning campaign, so that a Kennedy Administration can finally bring an end to the very abuses and lies that rightfully make our community suspicious of government sabotage in this and all peaceful movements for change. 

As counterintuitive as it may seem, many of the fiercest activists for ending our military imperialism and the hideous crimes of our intelligence apparatus are military and IC veterans who witnessed abuses while serving. Dan Ellsberg. Ed Snowden. Chelsea Manning. Ray McGovern. The presidents who have warned us most presciently about the dangers of the defense industrial complex and the CIA — Ike and JFK — were themselves both veterans. 

General Smedley Butler, who foiled the Wall Street Bankers’ Coup to overthrow our government in 1933, was a three-decade veteran of the Marine Corps and forward-deployed arm of the CIA’s horrors in Latin America. This experience allowed him to speak truth to power and safeguard our republic against the very forces that he had once served. I attach his remarks below, as true today as they were then, and I draw inspiration from those before me, who have metabolized the crimes they witnessed into an indefatigable drive to rid our nation of such mortal dangers and set us back on the path to freedom, transparency, and peace.

Their example helped guide me, when Bobby asked me to take over. 

I would guess that, one time or another, many of you have found yourselves faced with a similar quandary. Do I speak out for the truth? Do I put my head above the parapet? Or do I protect myself against the attacks that such vulnerability may unleash in the hopes that someone equally qualified will do it in my place? 

But the thing is — there is nobody equally qualified as you. Each of you, like me, has led a life of unique lessons. And each of you is irreplaceable in this fight.

As I was reminded recently by a wise man, the book of Esther asks us: “Who knows if perhaps you were made for just such a time as this?”

I believe that you were. I believe that I was. Above all, I believe that Bobby was.

And so I said yes.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, and on every future day of our journey, I hope that you will ask yourself the same question that Mordecai asked Esther. And I hope that you, too, will say yes. 

Yes to hosting gatherings. Yes to wearing your Kennedy shirts. Yes to giving of your time and resources. Yes to showing up. Yes to whatever your heart is guiding you to do right now.

Because that is how we stay in our magnificent power. That is how we link arms, across cities and pastures and mountains. That is how, together and at last, we prove Ben Franklin right. 

In the oncoming warmth of that rising sun, I send you each my love and respect.

Until next week,


Team Kennedy