- The Washington Times - Friday, April 12, 2002

Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is breaking free of her role as second in command and emerging as a politician in her own right, speaking more confidently on issues she will push in her bid for governor.

Her staff said she has had to strike a balance during the seven and a quarter years of the current administration, championing her own causes while deferring to Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his agenda.

With the last legislative session of the Glendening-Townsend administration behind her and the first hurdle of the primary just five months away, Mrs. Townsend is speaking of her own plans more often.

Yesterday, she took center stage with a public speaking and campaign master, former President Bill Clinton.

At the Capital Hilton in Northwest, Mr. Clinton presented an award to Mrs. Townsend for her work in community and national service. Mrs. Townsend was given the first Clinton Center Award by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a group that said its aim was to reaffirm the belief in self-government while using new means to achieve progressive ideals. Mrs. Townsend has long been an active and prominent member of the DLC.

"When I talk about service, it's part of who I am, what I want to build on," Mrs. Townsend told reporters after an acceptance speech in which she recounted experiences that shaped the convictions behind her policies.

Mr. Clinton said no lieutenant governor in America has had such a positive effect on a state's residents as Mrs. Townsend has through her development and promotion of programs built on community service, including requiring that every student who graduates from a Maryland high school contribute 75 hours of civic service.

"She made Maryland the first state to institutionalize that every child can and should serve," Mr. Clinton said. "She is the only person who can and should be the first recipient of this award."

The eldest child of the late Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Mrs. Townsend said she "often heard St. Luke's admonition: 'From those who have been given much, much will be expected.'"

Her brother Christopher Kennedy, who at 38 is 12 years younger than Mrs. Townsend, said she was instrumental in bringing up all 10 younger siblings.

"Mother and Kathleen pushed us to be involved," Mr. Kennedy said.

In a business and a family that has been dominated by men, Mrs. Townsend sometimes seems less confident than male rivals.

Unlike Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican who announced his gubernatorial bid last month, and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat flirting with challenging her in the primary, Mrs. Townsend occasionally wrestles through awkward pauses before answering reporters.

But in speeches based more on her experience and vision than notes and cues, once-frequent moments when her body language and inflection didn't fit her words are rarer now.

In yesterday's speech, she recalled a moment when, while visiting a wealthy school district, a girl told her she did not know why she should care about problems that she said did not affect her in a community 10 miles away.

"[That] showed something was fundamentally wrong with the education she was getting," Mrs. Townsend said.

And it helped spark Mrs. Townsend's push for character education.

She said she would like to see all police officers get the training in ethical problem-solving and racial reconciliation that recruits receive through the Police Corps program she started to entice more young people to join law enforcement.

"What's most important is you teach young people they have a destiny," she said.

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