Waterkeeper Alliance

Speaker Bio

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. likes to say he’s been an environmentalist all his life. As a young boy, he kept pet snakes and raccoons, bred homing pigeons and pheasants in his backyard, and learned to train hawks. He even considered becoming a veterinarian.

Today Kennedy is widely recognized as the country’s most prominent environmental attorney, working tirelessly to safeguard the environment and public health. He is the founder of Pace University’s Environmental Litigation Clinic in White Plains, New York; president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international coalition of 200 grassroots groups; senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper. The peripatetic Kennedy also crisscrosses North America several times a year, stirring audiences of college students, community groups and elected officials. He earned Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River.

Among Kennedy’s published books is the New York Times bestseller Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy. The bestselling book fulfilled a lifelong dream. At the age of ten, Kennedy told his father, then a United States Senator from New York, that he wanted to write a book about pollution. Mr. Kennedy has also written The Riverkeepers: Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right; and Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr: A Biography; and three children’s books: St. Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy; American Heroes: Joshua Chamberlain and the American Civil War; and American Heroes: Robert Smalls: The Boat Thief.

Kennedy’s indefatigable drive is sustained by his personal connection to the outdoors – he’s a master falconer, an accomplished kayaker, skier, sailor, and fisherman. “Despoiling our air, land, and water may make corporations richer in the short term because they don’t address the costs of pollution,” he says, “but it steals from the next generation. Our children are going to pay for our joyride. And they are going to pay for it with denuded landscapes and poor health and huge cleanup costs that they are never going to be able to afford.”

Kennedy is a graduate of Harvard University. He studied at the London School of Economics and received his law degree from the University of Virginia Law School. Following graduation he attended Pace University School of Law, where he was awarded a Master’s Degree in Environmental Law.

Kennedy sees the lack of environmental protection as emblematic of a much larger problem, “a kind of corporate crony capitalism that is antithetical to all the values that we cherish.” “Really all environmental injury is an assault on democracy,” he says, “because the most important measure of how a democracy is functioning is how it distributes the goods of the land – the commons.”