On inauguration day, a skinny redhead was racing to the House floor and smacked directly into Rep. Paul Ryan. The fresh-faced kid apologized and introduced himself as Joe Kennedy III, a new colleague. “That’s great. Congratulations,” Ryan told him. “Where are you from?”

Barbara Arnwine, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Rep. Joe Kennedy III. (Chae Kihn/Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law)

“I’m actually from Massachusetts,” answered Kennedy.

“I probably should have guessed,” laughed Ryan.

“Don’t worry about it,” Kennedy said. “There’s a lot of us.”

With a combination of charm and embarrassment, the 32-year-old Democrat shared the story Wednesday night at the 50th anniversary of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights founded in 1963 by great-uncle President Kennedy and grandfather RFK. His election last November to Barney Frank’s old seat meant that the no-Kennedy-in-Congress era lasted only two years — and it looks like the freshman congressman has slipped comfortably into the family business.

NBA veteran Jason Collins, left, the first active player in one of four major U.S. professional sports leagues to come out as gay, marches in Boston's gay pride parade alongside U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a college roommate, Saturday, June 8, 2013, in Boston. Collins said he realized he needed to go public when the Democratic congressman walked in Boston's gay pride parade last year and Collins decided he couldn't join him. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) NBA veteran Jason Collins and college roommate Kennedy in Boston’s gay pride parade earlier this month.  (AP/Mary Schwalm)

Kennedy, son of former Rep. Joe Kennedy, brings a classic liberal-elite resume to Washington: Degree from Stanford. (His roommate was future NBA player Jason Collins, with whom he marched at Boston’s Gay Pride Parade earlier this month.) Harvard Law, where he met his wife Lauren Birchfield in Professor Elizabeth Warren’s class. Plus a stint in the Peace Corps, as a Legal Aid volunteer and an assistant D.A.

And, of course, that storied name.

“I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to be born in a family where my parents told me from my earliest age that I could be whoever I wanted to be, or do whatever it is I wanted to do in my life,” he told the audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “I took that to mean I would be the next Joe Montana. Sadly, that didn’t work quite out.”

Kennedy on his first day in Congress in January. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Kennedy on his first day in Congress in January. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Instead, he’s the new Kennedy in D.C., presiding at official events. That meant giving remarks at Tuesday’s ceremony sending a torch lit from JFK’s eternal flame to Ireland, and racing over between votes to launch the Young Lawyers Committee, an initiative to bring more rookie lawyers into the social justice movement.

Kennedy urged the young men and women — his colleagues if he hadn’t veered into politics — to “bring fresh eyes and fresh instincts to age-old battles… and so our generation picks up this torch.”

Hmmm. Sounds so familiar. . .

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