Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy‘s tragic childhood loss of his father, Robert F. Kennedy, to murder means he understands the gun violence problems plaguing Chicago “better than most,” says his cousin, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

And the former congressman says he has spoken about the issue with his cousin Chris. “It’s not just a policy decision for him — he’s personally invested in this issue,” he says.

Patrick Kennedy was speaking to Chicago Inc. on Tuesday between two events to promote the work of the Kennedy Forum in tackling mental health and addiction issues, both of which he has had public personal battles with and has written about in a best-selling book.

Attended by Democratic power brokers including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the events gave Kennedy a chance to press the flesh and remind them of his family’s fabled magic.

“I think they appreciate how the legacy informs all of us,” Patrick Kennedy said. “They all know Chris because they’ve worked with Chris for three decades out here and they all shared that with me and I appreciate that.”

In speeches at a breakfast meeting in River North and at lunchtime at Mount Sinai Hospital, the former Rhode Islander alluded to the effect the murders of his uncles President John F. Kennedy and former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had on his father, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

“My dad suffered from tremendous trauma — think about the trauma you’ve experienced here in Chicago,” he said. “My father saw two of his brothers murdered, not assassinated, murdered, and the impact on all my cousins and growing up without a father because of the impact gun violence had innumerable mental health effects that reverberated around my family that we never discussed, never discussed.”

“The common struggle is the fact that we all face silence when it comes to any discussion about these issues. And our response to that is to break the silence.”

Patrick Kennedy told Chicago Inc. that gun violence is a subject he has discussed with his cousin, who was just 4 when his father was killed in 1968, because “it’s effected our family profoundly. He knows better than most what’s going on here in Chicago that all those children are growing up without parents because they’re victims of gunshots.


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