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From 'Poon to Perspective, The Two Sides of a Paradox

DAVID J. KENNEDY '93

By John A. Cloud

AFEIXED TO THE BULLETIN board in the debate office at Regis High School in New York City are two photographs of David J. Kennedy. One pictures Kennedy as a National Parliamentary Debate Champion. The other, from USA Today, shows Kennedy at The Harvard Lampoon.

They still love Dave Kennedy at Regis. Like many others who will graduate from Harvard today, he burned his way through high school, wringing every ounce of achievement he could from the place and leaving it almost gasping with praise in his wake. Unlike others, however, Kennedy is remembered even today, the two pictures fixing his legacy at Regis.

"He's as well known by the present freshmen as he was by his own classmates," Regis debate coach Eric P. Di Michele says.

And why not? In a school that today boasts graduates who have won three of the last four National Parliamentary Debate Tournaments, Kennedy still stands out. He won not only Nationals but the World Universities Debating Championship as well, held at Oxford last winter.

He won a Truman scholarship as a resident of New York, perhaps the most competitive state in the nation, Next year he will travel to Seoul, South Korea on a Luce scholarship, and then he returns for Yale Law School--notorious even among lvies for the tiny proportion of applicants who are admitted.

Academically, he is "a professor's dream," as his mother predicted he would be. "Teachers often learn as much from their students as their students learn from them. I felt like I learned a lot from David," gurgles Associate Professor of Government H. W. Perry Jr., for whom Kennedy worked as a researcher.

Still, two pictures? Many students are bright. Many are successful. Many have even been the first in their families to graduate from college, like Kennedy.

But when you talk to Kennedy--or, more appropriately, when he converses with you--the two pictures become oddly necessary. A single photo can give you only an attenuated version of David Kennedy; One side of a coin. A joke without its punch line. Choose your own cliche--David is a "living, breathing paradox," as one of his friends put it.

"Everything I do, I always feel that there's, like, another me watching..., like there's this other me sort of keeping tabs," Kennedy says. "It's like having a second conscience."

Kennedy isn't saying he's a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde--two completely different people inside one, He's more like legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow, who won praise Iron athe ists for his defense of Darwinism in the Scopes trial, all the while remaining personally devout.

Kennedy fights constantly to strike a proper balance between incongruities. One David isn't private and a completely different one public--instead, a single Kennedy has built a thick wall between the two. One David isn't Irish Catholic, another cosmopolitan liberal--he tries to be both. One David isn't a social activist, another a flippant 'Poonster, reveling in the Castle's elite traditions--here, David is both.

But the struggle to find a personal equilibrium is difficult. And Kennedy is successful only part of the time.

ONE AUTUMN DAY A FEW YEARS ago, Anne Kennedy drove her son David to a nearby high school to take the SAT. A sea of cars buzzed around the parking lot, and Mrs. Kennedy knew there would be "a mob scene" after the students completed their tests. She asked David to wait at an intersection to avoid the crowds.

Four hours later, she found him standing just where she had asked him to wait--although now it was raining. Pouring, in fact.

"I got to the corner and there was no one else in sight," Mrs. Kennedy laughs. "Nevertheless, David was standing in a torrential rain,...wearing his new leather shoes and winter coat."

About a hundred yards away stood the relative safety of a building's overhang. David was not under it. "He follows the rules exactly to a tee," she says.

Kennedy's sense of discipline springs largely from his background as the son of two Irish-Catholic immigrant families. Then Anne Hearne, Mrs. Kennedy left County Wexford in Ireland 30 years ago. She married James Kennedy, the son of an Irish Republican Army member from Donegal who immigrated around 1930.

Now the family (including David's brothers Michael and Peter) resides in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., a bedroom community of 7,018 about 55 minutes from Manhattan.

"It was my mom's dream that she would have a Harvard graduate, because that was making it," Kennedy says. "I really do feel this huge burden and I felt this real burden coming into Harvard just to maximize every minute and to just make every minute count, because, you know, I was the first in so many generations to have this chance...I just couldn't blow it."

He hasn't. As his friend and Lampoon coworker Adam J.B. Lane '93 puts it. "Dave's definitely one of the class go-getters...He juggles well with Perspective and debate and the Lampoon and all his classes. And he also has a social life, so you really have to tip your hat to him. He's also a normal human being."

No surprise for a world champion debater, Kennedy is particular about his distinctions. What he takes from Catholicism, he insists, is purely personal. He doesn't let the Church determine his views about things political or public--matters that can be "subjected to rational debate," as he puts it.

"The whole thing with Catholicism is that it really has kind of shaped my life and has often done so in completely opposite ways from which it would have intended," Kennedy says.

Personally, his Catholic upbringing has made him "queasy" about some of Harvard's more libertarian tendencies, especially those dealing with sex. For example, he often feels uncomfortable "going to an Adams House dance and seeing a guy wearing just a sock."

Still, he says these "inner prejudices" don't "involve making substantive choices that affect other people's lives." When it comes to politics, he may push the limits of what it means to be Catholic.

Gay marriage? For it. Abortion rights? Pro. Gays in the military? Sooner, not later. In short, Kennedy says he keeps his personal faith distinct from his political beliefs.

"I just find it extremely difficult to celebrate belonging to a church that actively excludes women from higher [ranks] of membership, has conducted a 2,000-year-old campaign to ensure that women remain barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen and views homosexuals as unnatural and deviant...," he declares.

So how does he derive his faith? "I think humanity's too much of a fuckup to have gotten us to where we are."

Kennedy says he's Catholic in culture, not in politics. But he jettisons such generalizations about Catholicism. "There are liberal Catholics," he reminds me. "Like the Jesuits.... The Jesuits are the best," he says with a smile.

THIS SPRING, TWO ELIOT HOUSE juniors began publishing Inside Edge, a national magazine whose cover promised articles on "women who love SEX" and "how to dump your girlfriend."

Kennedy found the sexism offensive and the writing inane. He blasted it in a screeching piece in Perspective (the campus "liberal monthly") and, bringing his extracurriculars together in a rare moment, worked on The Edge, a hilarious Lampoon parody.

"He was really nuts about the Edge thing," Lane says. "He was quite clearly appalled."

Indeed, students may best know Kennedy as a silver-tongued voice of the campus left. Remarkably well-spoken and instantaneously witty, Kennedy may be the toughest debate opponent at Harvard--whether in sanctioned competition or over chickwiches in the dining hall.

David S. Friedman '93, who won the World Championship with Kennedy, says his partner is "very aggressive."

"He always knows what he's talking about," Friedman says. "And he's not afraid to intimidate people. The way he speaks, the way he addresses people comes across as... powerful."

Kennedy has perfected a barroom-brawl style of debating that leaves opponents flummoxed and the crowd laughing. "I got away with murder because I could be funny," Kennedy says.

THE LAMPOON REJECTED DAVID twice before finally electing him during his sophomore year, after his third comp. At Perspective, "we don't really have a comp," he says.

That's not the only difference. In style, the two magazines are totally incongruous: The Lampoon publishes out of a building called "the Castle," hosts black-tie lobster and caviar fetes and toasts the top comedians in the country.

The Perspective is run by a rag-tag group of liberal intellectuals who meet in a dingy basement office at Memorial Hall described by President Jesse M. Furman '94 as "pathetic." The closest thing to banquets are pizza parties.

Kennedy loves both publications. As co-managing editor of Perspective last year, he helped coordinate writing and editing and wrote several articles himself.

But, significantly, Kennedy calls his writing for the Lampoon his "legacy" at Harvard. Many credit his workaholism for increasing Lampoon production, especially over the last year. The organization has struggled in recent years to set aside partying long enough to publish its four or five annual issues. With Kennedy around, the work got done on time.

This year, the Lampoon published nine times--five issues and four parodies--up from six the previous year. Kennedy was the driving force behind the Inside Edge parody, and fully six articles in the most recent issue (which he designed and copy edited) end with his "DJK."

"Dave is someone who doesn't do things by halves," Lane says.

Besides the difference in style, Lampoon and Perspective have opposing reputations on campus. The Lampoon has come under fire in the past from minority groups and women worried that what the Lampoon calls humor teeters on the edge of racism and sexism.

In a spring issue, for example, the Lampoon spoofed "near-death experiences" with an article recounting the stories of fictional people who avoided being killed. One was "Achmed Mohammed, Age 25." The character had eluded death because he was unable "to drive a truck full of explosives into a barracks full of imperialist United States forces." But, the joke went, "[m]y brother Harouk took the mission."

Haneen M. Rabie '95, president of the Society of Arab Students, didn't find the joke funny, and blasted the Lampoon in a letter to The Crimson. She said the piece reinforced stereotypes of Arabs as terrorists. "You can't help but feel discriminated against," Rabie told The Crimson, which was also criticized for a cartoon it ran.

Kennedy, who wrote the article, isn't usually on the receiving end of such charges. Besides the Lampoon, his liberal credentials seem air-tight.

Last summer, for example, he helped change voter-registration laws in Philadelphia which disfranchised many of the homeless, particularly Black men. And with his Luce scholarship, he will work next year in Seoul for the Social Welfare Center at Chung An University.

He defends the Achmed Mohammed piece on the grounds that he didn't intend to attribute any qualities "to all Arabs."

One shouldn't "draw an implication from it that wasn't intended and then go on to argue that the implication" is reprehensible, Kennedy says.

Whatever the case with that article, Kennedy's involvement in the Lampoon does remain a step away from his campus liberalism. Minority groups have charged that the Lampoon's emphasis on secrecy and tradition often make it a foreboding place for students who may already feel out of place around Harvard's ivied walls. Moreover, the rigorous comp process at the Lampoon likely turns away a larger percentage of compers than any other campus publication.

At Perspective, distinctions can be made on the basis of argumentation and reporting. At the Lampoon, it's humor--humor that sometimes demands (as with the Achmed Mohammed piece) that students partially set aside their intolerance of stereotyping. That's a tall order for some minorities and women.

"Some things the Lampoon stands for are things Perspective has fought against," says Furman. "The exclusivity, the closest thing to a rush on campus, humor that at times is at other people's expense"--while de rigueur for the Lampy, most Perspective staffers find these things unacceptable.

And Perspective, by contrast, enjoys a solid campus reputation for openness. Few would argue that Perspective has "sensitivity problems."

"My thought is that David views the Lampoon as a forum in which to be funny, and at times, unfortunately, he forgets his commitment to politics," Furman says. Sometimes, he says, Kennedy "fails to realize that humor can also be political."

Kennedy, however, says he has been able to reconcile his work on both Perspective and the Lampoon.

He quickly denies the allegation that the Lampoon chooses staffers on criteria other than merit. "We weren't elected because we like each other. We were elected because we produce good work," he claims.

And he says the organization's secrecy and tradition are crucial to drawing first-years to the comp. "The image is essential to the place," he says.

He argues that it's more about fun than exclusion. People don't know how to take things that are ironic and ridiculous," he says. Of those who can't see the line between irony and insensitivity, he says they "aren't bright enough to draw the line."

For every once of brie and caviar served at the Castle, he says, there are Rice Krispie Treats and Fruity Pebbles. "The place is full of social retards--among them, "me," he says in response to the idea that the Lampoon is a mini final club.

Kennedy says he doesn't see why minorities are upset by the organization, but he seems not to grasp that even a little perceived insensitivity can go a long way. "The last time a joke was printed that had even a remote reference to Blacks was in spring of 1990," he asserts.

But one of Kennedy's own recent pieces memorialized the "Forgotten Heroes of the Civil Rights Struggle." It clearly wasn't insensitive, But it did make "a remote reference to Blacks." And anyway, many would respond that 1990 wasn't so long ago. Kennedy says that because the 1990 article was written by a Black staffer, it's okay.

"When ethnic groups are mentioned in the lampoon, it's generally a sign of their inclusion on the staff," he says. "We didn't write any Arab jokes" until an Arab-American joined the staff recently, he says.

Kennedy points out that nothing in the magazine directly argues against his politics.

"There are plenty of pieces in the Lampoon that really are a humor forum for his political views also," Furman concedes. "In some ways he uses that membership in a way that's consistent with Perspective."

That's what happened with Kennedy's Lampoon and Perspective reactions to Inside Edge, for example.

But the Lampoon isn't Kennedyesque for other reasons. Most glaringly, it doesn't seem to mesh with Kennedy's focus on "rational discussion." The Lampoon is almost as well known for its drug-infested bashes as for its publications.

Lane says Kennedy once good-naturedly called him a "slacker" when it came to getting his work done on time. Lane responded, "You're the only go-getter in the place! This is a magazine of slackers!"

The explanation for Kennedy's Lampoon membership may lie in his long-felt need not to take himself too seriously. According to his mother, Kennedy has always handled burdens of work and stress by having a "good sense of humor." Kennedy himself insists he wants to retain a strong "sense of self-irony," as he puts it.

Much of the time, he can pull it off. In high school, debate coach Di Michele says, "David had a terrific sense of humor, And he's smart enough to know not to take himself too seriously."

Kennedy says taking yourself too seriously in debate is "an occupational hazard." Debate partner Friedman also says Kennedy "is willing to embarrass himself for the pleasure of other people."

Still, Kennedy wasn't always so self-deprecating.

While Mrs. Kennedy says David has "learned to make fun of himself" and have a good time, as a kid "he only had time for books." She recalls one "beautiful summer day" when she told David to get out of the house. "He went to the library," she laughs. "All he wanted to do was [read] books."

And today, some of Kennedy's friends say his worst fault is that he takes his own opinions as Truth too often. "He doesn't always have the greatest respect for people with whom he disagrees," one friend says. "He seems to think sometimes, 'These guys are ridiculous. There's absolutely nothing valid in what they believe.'"

Lane says Kennedy can be "moralistic," and explains that he's on Perspective and Lampoon because "he likes to gnaw at people, and both [organizations] allow that."

Kennedy himself admits that he wasn't chosen president of the campus parliamentary debate group because he was "too abrasive." Friedman got the post instead, and Kennedy became comp director.

IN THE END, DAVID JOSEPH KENNEDY has been vastly successful at Harvard. But these successes--and the context in which he has achieved them--sometimes betray his own desire to live life freely, to quote from both "In Living Color" and a German theologian in the same conversation, to write for Perspective and Lampoon in the same week.

Kennedy wants to retain a sense of self-irony, but sometimes he can only muster self-contradiction.

David is acutely aware of his capacity for accomplishment, and of how far he has come from Donegal and County Wexford. In the course of a two-hour conversation, David mentioned three times that he had won the Nationals and World Championship.

"You know, no one had ever done that before," he says.

No, Listening to David for the first time, we do not know. But we do now.

"You know" is Kennedy's replacement for the less articulate "ums" and "uhs" uttered by most of us. It's very important for David that we "know"--about himself, about his views, about his life. Indeed, after a while, you begin to realize that Dave Kennedy, despite his intentions, takes himself quite seriously.

But if that makes him a failure, then we're all doomed to mediocrity. Kennedy asks the impossible of himself--study hard, hold a job, have a social life, help keep two magazines afloat--and still not be too serious or proud.

Kennedy spends his life treading the uncertain margins that lie between second-generation immigrant and Harvard student, between Catholic and humanist, between Perspective and Lampoon, between himself and his "second conscience," always "keeping tabs."

The fact that he's as successful as he is at these balancing acts may be more impressive than the Truman, Yale Law, or the World Debate Championship.

Keep those two pictures up, Mr. Di Michele. David wouldn't be David without both of them.

A Catholic feminist? No problem, Kennedy says.

What's a guy like Dave Kennedy doing in The Harvard Lampoon?

Kennedy fights constantly to strike a proper balance between incongruities. One David isn't private and a completely different one public--instead, a single Kennedy has built a thick wall between the two. One David isn't Irish Catholic, another cosmopolitan liberal--he tries to be both. One David isn't a social activist, another a flippant 'Poonster, reveling in the Castle's elite traditions--here, David is both.

But the struggle to find a personal equilibrium is difficult. And Kennedy is successful only part of the time.

ONE AUTUMN DAY A FEW YEARS ago, Anne Kennedy drove her son David to a nearby high school to take the SAT. A sea of cars buzzed around the parking lot, and Mrs. Kennedy knew there would be "a mob scene" after the students completed their tests. She asked David to wait at an intersection to avoid the crowds.

Four hours later, she found him standing just where she had asked him to wait--although now it was raining. Pouring, in fact.

"I got to the corner and there was no one else in sight," Mrs. Kennedy laughs. "Nevertheless, David was standing in a torrential rain,...wearing his new leather shoes and winter coat."

About a hundred yards away stood the relative safety of a building's overhang. David was not under it. "He follows the rules exactly to a tee," she says.

Kennedy's sense of discipline springs largely from his background as the son of two Irish-Catholic immigrant families. Then Anne Hearne, Mrs. Kennedy left County Wexford in Ireland 30 years ago. She married James Kennedy, the son of an Irish Republican Army member from Donegal who immigrated around 1930.

Now the family (including David's brothers Michael and Peter) resides in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., a bedroom community of 7,018 about 55 minutes from Manhattan.

"It was my mom's dream that she would have a Harvard graduate, because that was making it," Kennedy says. "I really do feel this huge burden and I felt this real burden coming into Harvard just to maximize every minute and to just make every minute count, because, you know, I was the first in so many generations to have this chance...I just couldn't blow it."

He hasn't. As his friend and Lampoon coworker Adam J.B. Lane '93 puts it. "Dave's definitely one of the class go-getters...He juggles well with Perspective and debate and the Lampoon and all his classes. And he also has a social life, so you really have to tip your hat to him. He's also a normal human being."

No surprise for a world champion debater, Kennedy is particular about his distinctions. What he takes from Catholicism, he insists, is purely personal. He doesn't let the Church determine his views about things political or public--matters that can be "subjected to rational debate," as he puts it.

"The whole thing with Catholicism is that it really has kind of shaped my life and has often done so in completely opposite ways from which it would have intended," Kennedy says.

Personally, his Catholic upbringing has made him "queasy" about some of Harvard's more libertarian tendencies, especially those dealing with sex. For example, he often feels uncomfortable "going to an Adams House dance and seeing a guy wearing just a sock."

Still, he says these "inner prejudices" don't "involve making substantive choices that affect other people's lives." When it comes to politics, he may push the limits of what it means to be Catholic.

Gay marriage? For it. Abortion rights? Pro. Gays in the military? Sooner, not later. In short, Kennedy says he keeps his personal faith distinct from his political beliefs.

"I just find it extremely difficult to celebrate belonging to a church that actively excludes women from higher [ranks] of membership, has conducted a 2,000-year-old campaign to ensure that women remain barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen and views homosexuals as unnatural and deviant...," he declares.

So how does he derive his faith? "I think humanity's too much of a fuckup to have gotten us to where we are."

Kennedy says he's Catholic in culture, not in politics. But he jettisons such generalizations about Catholicism. "There are liberal Catholics," he reminds me. "Like the Jesuits.... The Jesuits are the best," he says with a smile.

THIS SPRING, TWO ELIOT HOUSE juniors began publishing Inside Edge, a national magazine whose cover promised articles on "women who love SEX" and "how to dump your girlfriend."

Kennedy found the sexism offensive and the writing inane. He blasted it in a screeching piece in Perspective (the campus "liberal monthly") and, bringing his extracurriculars together in a rare moment, worked on The Edge, a hilarious Lampoon parody.

"He was really nuts about the Edge thing," Lane says. "He was quite clearly appalled."

Indeed, students may best know Kennedy as a silver-tongued voice of the campus left. Remarkably well-spoken and instantaneously witty, Kennedy may be the toughest debate opponent at Harvard--whether in sanctioned competition or over chickwiches in the dining hall.

David S. Friedman '93, who won the World Championship with Kennedy, says his partner is "very aggressive."

"He always knows what he's talking about," Friedman says. "And he's not afraid to intimidate people. The way he speaks, the way he addresses people comes across as... powerful."

Kennedy has perfected a barroom-brawl style of debating that leaves opponents flummoxed and the crowd laughing. "I got away with murder because I could be funny," Kennedy says.

THE LAMPOON REJECTED DAVID twice before finally electing him during his sophomore year, after his third comp. At Perspective, "we don't really have a comp," he says.

That's not the only difference. In style, the two magazines are totally incongruous: The Lampoon publishes out of a building called "the Castle," hosts black-tie lobster and caviar fetes and toasts the top comedians in the country.

The Perspective is run by a rag-tag group of liberal intellectuals who meet in a dingy basement office at Memorial Hall described by President Jesse M. Furman '94 as "pathetic." The closest thing to banquets are pizza parties.

Kennedy loves both publications. As co-managing editor of Perspective last year, he helped coordinate writing and editing and wrote several articles himself.

But, significantly, Kennedy calls his writing for the Lampoon his "legacy" at Harvard. Many credit his workaholism for increasing Lampoon production, especially over the last year. The organization has struggled in recent years to set aside partying long enough to publish its four or five annual issues. With Kennedy around, the work got done on time.

This year, the Lampoon published nine times--five issues and four parodies--up from six the previous year. Kennedy was the driving force behind the Inside Edge parody, and fully six articles in the most recent issue (which he designed and copy edited) end with his "DJK."

"Dave is someone who doesn't do things by halves," Lane says.

Besides the difference in style, Lampoon and Perspective have opposing reputations on campus. The Lampoon has come under fire in the past from minority groups and women worried that what the Lampoon calls humor teeters on the edge of racism and sexism.

In a spring issue, for example, the Lampoon spoofed "near-death experiences" with an article recounting the stories of fictional people who avoided being killed. One was "Achmed Mohammed, Age 25." The character had eluded death because he was unable "to drive a truck full of explosives into a barracks full of imperialist United States forces." But, the joke went, "[m]y brother Harouk took the mission."

Haneen M. Rabie '95, president of the Society of Arab Students, didn't find the joke funny, and blasted the Lampoon in a letter to The Crimson. She said the piece reinforced stereotypes of Arabs as terrorists. "You can't help but feel discriminated against," Rabie told The Crimson, which was also criticized for a cartoon it ran.

Kennedy, who wrote the article, isn't usually on the receiving end of such charges. Besides the Lampoon, his liberal credentials seem air-tight.

Last summer, for example, he helped change voter-registration laws in Philadelphia which disfranchised many of the homeless, particularly Black men. And with his Luce scholarship, he will work next year in Seoul for the Social Welfare Center at Chung An University.

He defends the Achmed Mohammed piece on the grounds that he didn't intend to attribute any qualities "to all Arabs."

One shouldn't "draw an implication from it that wasn't intended and then go on to argue that the implication" is reprehensible, Kennedy says.

Whatever the case with that article, Kennedy's involvement in the Lampoon does remain a step away from his campus liberalism. Minority groups have charged that the Lampoon's emphasis on secrecy and tradition often make it a foreboding place for students who may already feel out of place around Harvard's ivied walls. Moreover, the rigorous comp process at the Lampoon likely turns away a larger percentage of compers than any other campus publication.

At Perspective, distinctions can be made on the basis of argumentation and reporting. At the Lampoon, it's humor--humor that sometimes demands (as with the Achmed Mohammed piece) that students partially set aside their intolerance of stereotyping. That's a tall order for some minorities and women.

"Some things the Lampoon stands for are things Perspective has fought against," says Furman. "The exclusivity, the closest thing to a rush on campus, humor that at times is at other people's expense"--while de rigueur for the Lampy, most Perspective staffers find these things unacceptable.

And Perspective, by contrast, enjoys a solid campus reputation for openness. Few would argue that Perspective has "sensitivity problems."

"My thought is that David views the Lampoon as a forum in which to be funny, and at times, unfortunately, he forgets his commitment to politics," Furman says. Sometimes, he says, Kennedy "fails to realize that humor can also be political."

Kennedy, however, says he has been able to reconcile his work on both Perspective and the Lampoon.

He quickly denies the allegation that the Lampoon chooses staffers on criteria other than merit. "We weren't elected because we like each other. We were elected because we produce good work," he claims.

And he says the organization's secrecy and tradition are crucial to drawing first-years to the comp. "The image is essential to the place," he says.

He argues that it's more about fun than exclusion. People don't know how to take things that are ironic and ridiculous," he says. Of those who can't see the line between irony and insensitivity, he says they "aren't bright enough to draw the line."

For every once of brie and caviar served at the Castle, he says, there are Rice Krispie Treats and Fruity Pebbles. "The place is full of social retards--among them, "me," he says in response to the idea that the Lampoon is a mini final club.

Kennedy says he doesn't see why minorities are upset by the organization, but he seems not to grasp that even a little perceived insensitivity can go a long way. "The last time a joke was printed that had even a remote reference to Blacks was in spring of 1990," he asserts.

But one of Kennedy's own recent pieces memorialized the "Forgotten Heroes of the Civil Rights Struggle." It clearly wasn't insensitive, But it did make "a remote reference to Blacks." And anyway, many would respond that 1990 wasn't so long ago. Kennedy says that because the 1990 article was written by a Black staffer, it's okay.

"When ethnic groups are mentioned in the lampoon, it's generally a sign of their inclusion on the staff," he says. "We didn't write any Arab jokes" until an Arab-American joined the staff recently, he says.

Kennedy points out that nothing in the magazine directly argues against his politics.

"There are plenty of pieces in the Lampoon that really are a humor forum for his political views also," Furman concedes. "In some ways he uses that membership in a way that's consistent with Perspective."

That's what happened with Kennedy's Lampoon and Perspective reactions to Inside Edge, for example.

But the Lampoon isn't Kennedyesque for other reasons. Most glaringly, it doesn't seem to mesh with Kennedy's focus on "rational discussion." The Lampoon is almost as well known for its drug-infested bashes as for its publications.

Lane says Kennedy once good-naturedly called him a "slacker" when it came to getting his work done on time. Lane responded, "You're the only go-getter in the place! This is a magazine of slackers!"

The explanation for Kennedy's Lampoon membership may lie in his long-felt need not to take himself too seriously. According to his mother, Kennedy has always handled burdens of work and stress by having a "good sense of humor." Kennedy himself insists he wants to retain a strong "sense of self-irony," as he puts it.

Much of the time, he can pull it off. In high school, debate coach Di Michele says, "David had a terrific sense of humor, And he's smart enough to know not to take himself too seriously."

Kennedy says taking yourself too seriously in debate is "an occupational hazard." Debate partner Friedman also says Kennedy "is willing to embarrass himself for the pleasure of other people."

Still, Kennedy wasn't always so self-deprecating.

While Mrs. Kennedy says David has "learned to make fun of himself" and have a good time, as a kid "he only had time for books." She recalls one "beautiful summer day" when she told David to get out of the house. "He went to the library," she laughs. "All he wanted to do was [read] books."

And today, some of Kennedy's friends say his worst fault is that he takes his own opinions as Truth too often. "He doesn't always have the greatest respect for people with whom he disagrees," one friend says. "He seems to think sometimes, 'These guys are ridiculous. There's absolutely nothing valid in what they believe.'"

Lane says Kennedy can be "moralistic," and explains that he's on Perspective and Lampoon because "he likes to gnaw at people, and both [organizations] allow that."

Kennedy himself admits that he wasn't chosen president of the campus parliamentary debate group because he was "too abrasive." Friedman got the post instead, and Kennedy became comp director.

IN THE END, DAVID JOSEPH KENNEDY has been vastly successful at Harvard. But these successes--and the context in which he has achieved them--sometimes betray his own desire to live life freely, to quote from both "In Living Color" and a German theologian in the same conversation, to write for Perspective and Lampoon in the same week.

Kennedy wants to retain a sense of self-irony, but sometimes he can only muster self-contradiction.

David is acutely aware of his capacity for accomplishment, and of how far he has come from Donegal and County Wexford. In the course of a two-hour conversation, David mentioned three times that he had won the Nationals and World Championship.

"You know, no one had ever done that before," he says.

No, Listening to David for the first time, we do not know. But we do now.

"You know" is Kennedy's replacement for the less articulate "ums" and "uhs" uttered by most of us. It's very important for David that we "know"--about himself, about his views, about his life. Indeed, after a while, you begin to realize that Dave Kennedy, despite his intentions, takes himself quite seriously.

But if that makes him a failure, then we're all doomed to mediocrity. Kennedy asks the impossible of himself--study hard, hold a job, have a social life, help keep two magazines afloat--and still not be too serious or proud.

Kennedy spends his life treading the uncertain margins that lie between second-generation immigrant and Harvard student, between Catholic and humanist, between Perspective and Lampoon, between himself and his "second conscience," always "keeping tabs."

The fact that he's as successful as he is at these balancing acts may be more impressive than the Truman, Yale Law, or the World Debate Championship.

Keep those two pictures up, Mr. Di Michele. David wouldn't be David without both of them.

A Catholic feminist? No problem, Kennedy says.

What's a guy like Dave Kennedy doing in The Harvard Lampoon?

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