September 27, 2004
Big sisterBy Steve Gilbert
While John Kerry's younger sister is currently making headlines because of her efforts in Canada, Mexico and even Australia to get out the expatriate vote for her brother, Kerry's older sister has been keeping a lower profile.
For it was Peggy Kerry who first got John Kerry involved in radical politics, when he was reassigned from Vietnam on the basis of his (controversial) three Purple Hearts in the spring of 1969. At that time Lt. (jg) John Kerry had been transferred onto the staff of Rear Admiral Walter Schlech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which was close to his sister who was, and still is a denizen of New York City's Greenwich Village.
Over the years Peggy has worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union. She has also lobbied for the Community Service Society and served as consultant for Planned Parenthood. She is also the co—chair of Kerry's New York State campaign committee
In 1969, Peggy Kerry had already been long since heavily involved in the anti—war movement. In fact, she was a top organizer of many of the anti—war demonstrations at the time. She was a very active member of several groups, including the ACLU, and perhaps even the Vietnam Veterans Against The War.
Peggy Kerry also worked very closely with Adam Walinsky, who was a former Robert Kennedy speech—writer and anti—war activist.
She had already enlisted her brother, who was still on active duty, to pilot Walinsky around to numerous anti—war activities in 1969—while Kerry was still on active duty in the Navy. (Walinsky later drafted and coached Kerry's speech before the US Senate in April 1971.)
Peggy Kerry had a major hand in putting together the grand daddy of all anti—war demonstrations —'the Moratorium' in Washington, DC, on October 15, 1969. Her baby brother John Kerry attended the Moratorium in Washington while still on active duty in the Navy.
The propriety or impropriety of participating in radical political activism while on active duty never seems to have bothered John Kerry. (Though Kerry claims he was careful not to wear his uniform or speak at such events.)
On Jan. 3, 1970, Kerry requested an early discharge from active duty so that he could run for Congress on an antiwar platform. He got the discharge, but didn't run—dropping out in favor of the radical Catholic Priest Father Robert Drinan.
Such questions of possible impropriety do not seem to faze Kerry's big sister either. For Peggy Kerry is currently a State Department employee who works at the United Nations. She is nongovernmental organization (N.G.O.) liaison at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. — a State Department position.
Nevertheless, despite her diplomacy—related work, she campaigns for her brother John in the evenings, after work, and on the weekends.
In fact, Peggy has worked in the campaign as much as possible, talking up her brother's candidacy among friends even during the dark days, working with local Democratic clubs, and providing direct assistance in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
Peggy Kerry is said to hold a job that is the equivalent of a GS—12," a very mid—level federal employee. She was a Clinton political appointee whose "job was made permanent in the early days of the Bush administration." Her job reportedly pays $66,195.00 a year.
Some antiabortion groups have questioned the propriety of Kerry's sister giving speeches that claim, if elected, her brother would overturn Bush policies — given that she is a federal employee in the Bush Administration. These groups question how she can represent Bush's policies when she is attacking them in campaign speeches for her brother.
Peggy Kerry concedes that her job prevents her from doing any political fundraising. Nevertheless she does help raise money for her brother. One of numerous examples is a Kerry fundraiser held in New York City in January by songwriter, Carole King:
'Introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Peggy Kerry and Bebe Neuwirth, Carole immediately warmed up the gathering of still frozen rush hour commuters who plucked down $500—$150 in support of Sen. John Kerry's campaign.'
Here is a photo of Peggy Kerry next to Carol King at that fundraiser.
Peggy Kerry also participated in a star—studded fundraising gala for her brother held by Donna Karan at her house in the Hamptons:
Sen. John Kerry's sister, Peggy Kerry, and her husband, George Kaler, also attended the event.
For now the Kerry campaign seems to be trying to give his sister's activities a low profile. They seem to consider her their 'secret weapon' with radical feminists.
In July, at an event put on by the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority, Kerry's sister assured a rally of feminist Democrats here yesterday that her brother will name several pro—choice justices to the Supreme Court if elected president.
"There are three things my brother is going to do when he's elected president," Peggy Kerry said. Mr. Kerry will restore $34 billion to the United Nation's population fund for family planning, she pledged, and the Democrat will make sure that "CEDAW," an international treaty to eliminate discrimination against women, is ratified in the Senate.
"He will also appoint pro—choice judges to the Supreme Court." At least three and perhaps as many as four justices could retire in the next few years, NOW leader Kim Gandy and other speakers said.
In introducing Ms. Kerry, Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said... 'There is no question that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards "have a huge track record with us. And he has a secret weapon," she said, referring to Peggy Kerry and her many years of work with feminist causes.