Invited guests watch Kennedy deliver State of the Union response from Fall River

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts will speak in front of about 150 people, including community members, students and faculty, at Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (WJAR)

U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III's Democratic response to the State of the Union Address drew a large crowd in Fall River Tuesday night.

Spectators ranged from students to other members of the community.

The speech, which was invitation-only, was broadcast live from the Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School.

"He hasn’t forgotten that he represents us," said invited guest Jackie Romaniecki. "He’s our representative and he’s talking to us first and that’s very special."

Others shared similar sentiments.

"I’m really excited that this was given to the state of Massachusetts and the people of Massachusetts, given how progressive we are, that one of our Congressman was chosen to give this rebuttal," said guest Kathryn Jason, a Tufts University student.

"To see him on the House floor and respond to the president tonight is absolutely great," said Diman Regional Vocational Technical School student Adam Kamoune.

It wasn't Kennedy’s first visit to the school. He said the students and quality of education are some of the reasons he believes it was a fitting place for his speech.

"The skills that they learn, the talent that they bring and the gaps that they fill in our economy," Kennedy said.

Former Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader Tom Norton agreed.

"This is a trade school," said Tom Norton. "America is built by people, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, this is how the country gets stronger."

UMass Dartmouth political science professor Shannon Jenkins said Kennedy is introducing himself to the national spotlight.

"I think it also reminds viewers of some of the democratic ideals associated with his grandfather and his great uncle," Jenkins said. "There’s a great deal of nostalgia for Bobby and John F. Kennedy."

In the past, Jenkins said other politicians have used this speech as a springboard to bigger political opportunities.

At a press briefing late Tuesday afternoon, reporters asked Kennedy if that’s the case here.

"I want to put forth values and visions that people can get behind and then I want to sleep," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he isn’t sure why he was chosen for this rebuttal opportunity, but hopes his message is one both parties can rally around.

"I have no doubt, and I know, that there are really talented folks that have their own values and visions to put forth and I think we need to do that too," Kennedy said.

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