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Kennedy has hereditary disorder

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2017

* Subscribers were told about this yesterday morning

Calling it “more of a nuisance than a disability,” Chris Kennedy on Tuesday acknowledged that he suffers from a hereditary disorder that causes tremors — a day after the Sun-Times reported that the gubernatorial candidate’s hands were shaking during a meet-and-greet with Cook County Democratic leaders.

“I wanted to set the record straight. The shaking is a condition I’ve lived with my whole life called familial [tremors.] It runs in the family. Doctors don’t know what causes it other than it is hereditary and does not cause impairment — more of a nuisance than a disability. In fact, many of my family members live with it. It doesn’t limit any of us in any way,” Kennedy wrote in a statement on Facebook.

“I don’t talk much about it, not because I’m ashamed of it, but because having dealt with it my whole life, it’s just not that big a deal to me. The fact is millions of people live their lives with far, far great challenges than an occasional handshake.

“The fact is improving the health of this state is a whole more important to me than talking about a minor condition. Once in a while, my hand will shake whether I like it or not. But regardless, most of the time, the kind of handshakes you’ll see from me will be on the campaign trail, earning the votes of the people of Illinois who believe in our quest to restore the promise of our state,” he wrote.

* As noted above, he has what’s known as “familial tremor,” which is a subset of “essential tremor.” Here’s the definition

Essential tremor signs and symptoms:

    Begin gradually, usually on one side of the body
    Worsen with movement
    Usually occur in the hands first, affecting one hand or both hands
    Can include a “yes-yes” or “no-no” motion of the head
    May be aggravated by emotional stress, fatigue, caffeine or temperature extremes […]

About half of essential tremor cases appear to result from a genetic mutation, although a specific gene hasn’t been identified. This form is referred to as familial tremor. It isn’t clear what causes essential tremor in people without a known genetic mutation. […]

Essential tremor isn’t life-threatening, but symptoms often worsen over time.

He has it in both hands.

It’s really not a big deal for an average person. The problem for Kennedy is that the shaking can sometimes become more prominent during times of stress, like, perhaps, during an important debate or TV appearance. Again, physically, it’s not a big thing, but people just don’t pay a lot of attention to state politics, so they can be very shallow when making their judgements about candidates.

This game, whether we care to admit it or not, is a lot about show business. It doesn’t affect his brain, but it could affect the perception of him.

…Adding… As a commenter notes below, one possible irony here is that Kennedy’s uncle, JFK, won a presidential debate and maybe even the whole campaign because Richard Nixon looked horrible on TV.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ok - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:08 am:

    Didnt you judge him as a flawed candidate because he has shaky hands?

  2. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:14 am:

    He’s still better than Rauner.

  3. - Downstate - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:17 am:

    I feel sorry for him. That is a challenge not of his making.

    The bigger challenge is this: People that are aware of his condition, will find themselves looking for it. People that aren’t aware will simply assume it’s nervousness. Either way, it’s a challenge for getting his message through.

    He shouldn’t be judged by it. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be.

  4. - Archiesmom - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:17 am:

    I have it too. I have wondered about Chris Kennedy for a while now. Glad he’s put it out there. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it is controllable with beta blockers and other types of medication.

  5. - lets hear it for the ADA - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:18 am:

    It’s time IL got a governor that has first hand knowledge of what it’s like to be different. IL has a poor record of assisting its disabled residents. If Kennedy had been receiving benefits from the state, he’d have been one of the first cut since it’s an intermittent affliction.

  6. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:21 am:

    He would have done himself a favor by acknowledging this at his announcement. It’s not like no one would notice or the press would ignore it. Hit it up front and use it as a positive - would have benefitted him to get ahead and have a chance to lead the narrative

  7. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:21 am:

    My late spouse suffered from essential tremors for years. Finally, shortly before her passing, her doctors found a relatively simple combination of meds that stopped the tremors completely.
    Politics aside, may Chris find a solution to this terrible disease.
    As an aside, my personal opinion is that this is not the type of thing we should be talking about on this blog.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:21 am:

    To the Post,

    Nothing changes that perception of candidates and how they are seen continues.

    Going back to FDR, making sure setting were either “staged” seated, or no cameras as FDR was assisted in standing and then the cameras were permitted to roll. The media, very few cameras back then, admittedly, were more than happy to oblige.

    Today, between Periscope, Facebook Live, camera-phones, the idea than any private moments of anything; sadness, anger, frustration, even over exuberant jubilation… but there’s no safe areas for public officials, unless they aren’t in public at all.

    That said, I think it’s critically important that the Kennedy Crew make this a known disorder Kennedy has and try to make clear often that this disorder doesn’t make him unable to fulfill the obligation and responsibilities as a governor.

    It makes Kemnedy courageous too. Courageous that he is willing to come forward and talk about this, and this condition won’t stop him from running for governor and make for a better Illinois.

    The goal here is to make the visible issues that Kennedy may show, at times the wrong time, nothing more than a candidate overcoming an obstacle to fight for Illinois.

    All the best to Chris Kennedy.

    My hope for Chris Kennedy is that by disclosing this he will then push forward and continue his bid with no fear.


  9. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:21 am:

    could he still sign a budget??

  10. - Chicago_Downstater - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:22 am:

    Yah, I’ve always wondered if FDR would have gotten elected in the age of the tv.

    Could you imagine no New Deal or a different president at the helm during most of WWII just because FDR had a wheelchair?

    Maybe if more folks know Kennedy’s shaking is a non-serious condition that’ll help? I don’t know though.

  11. - Galena Guy - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:26 am:

    OW - Hear! Hear!

  12. - Anon - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:29 am:

    Let’s see if Bruce is advised to follow Trump’s lead and mock him for this.

  13. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:29 am:

    ===Didnt you judge him as a flawed candidate because he has shaky hands? ===

    Yep. Your point?

  14. - Curl of the Burl - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:30 am:

    The irony here - and this is not meant to be partisan but is meant as more of a point of reference - is that Chris’s uncle John received votes because the American public watched Richard Nixon sweat and look uncomfortable on national television (after a hospital stay and serious illness, no less). Those were the first televised debates so voters got to see what they had not seen before.

  15. - City Zen - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:33 am:

    ==could he still sign a budget??==

    More importantly, could he balance it?

  16. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:35 am:

    I don’t think it matters. If “show biz” is important, I dont think there are any movie star poster boys in the race.

    I’m more concerned with a congenital liar in the governor’s office, not someone whose hand shakes,

    He’s been in the public eye for a while. Curious as to why the Sun-Times chose to lead with it the other day.

  17. - AC - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:46 am:

    As someone with a (thankfully mild) essential tremor, I was too infuriated to respond coherently to the initial post. I’ve been accused of being nervous when I’m bored, and misinterpreted in other ways, because of this. So, my hope with this disclosure that we can move in to other more substantive reasons to assess Kennedy’s candidacy.

  18. - wondering - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:47 am:

    all things being equal, and they are not, I would be more inclined to vote for him because of it.

  19. - illini - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:49 am:

    Second attempt -

    Speaking as someone who has lived with a congenital birth defect for 67 years I DON’T CARE.

    This has not prevented me from getting several college degrees, becoming a licensed professional in two fields and being a productive and involved member of our society.

    Great post Willy!

  20. - Archiesmom - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:52 am:

    Same here, AC. Mine is becoming more of a problem now, and I have to explain things more, like why I occasionally have to use my own, weighted, silverware when I’m having an acute tremor day. Or why I can’t drink out of a very full glass, or have to use a straw now that my jaw tremor has begun. My friends know and are sympathetic, but you still have to explain. I hope Chris Kennedy can use this opportunity to raise awareness.

  21. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:52 am:

    Full disclosure…

    ===- Oswego Willy - Monday, Mar 27, 17 @ 4:52 pm

    Kennedy, like Pritzker, like Biss…

    Gotta find your sea legs.

    Ads can be crafted around things. If Kennedy can’t get it together enough to get the ads to work, then that’s a red flag.

    Until then, nerves also so a desire to try to be sincere and to be the best they can be speaking. It can be taught.

    The best actors make it look “too easy”…

    … Rod and Bruce immediately come to mind.===

    I didn’t know of the condition. I still stand by my comment too. Now? Now, knowing what I know, and with this new disclosure, I’ll see Kennedy fighting for Illinois with real obstacles for all to see.

    It was important that Kennedy disclosed.

  22. - GlimmerGirl - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 9:55 am:

    My daughter has ET. She has learned tricks like holding on to a podium if she is speaking and she takes beta blockers before an important event, like a band audition. I am hoping that Chris’ reveal will help build awareness of ET.

  23. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 10:03 am:

    (Tips cap to - Galena Guy - and - illini -)

  24. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 10:05 am:

    I’m absolutely convinced that shaking hands have nothing to do with how he’d be as a Governor.

    But he’s now spending multiple campaign days on this story, and the candidate’s time is the most precious resource. “When you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

  25. - Cubs in '16 - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 10:16 am:

    I’ve never seen Chris speak publicly so I don’t know if he uses his hands a lot. But in a formal political setting like a debate he could be accommodated with a podium where he could keep his hands out of view, thus reducing the likelihood voters would judge him negatively based on his condition.

  26. - Buster crab - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 10:18 am:

    Better a shaky hand than the shaky leadership shown by our current Governor.

  27. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 10:21 am:

    ===he could be accommodated===

    Only if the other side is trying to be kind.

  28. - jeffinginchicago - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 10:26 am:

    He should acknowledge every time it happens. It will diffuse situation and let him get on with message. I use this technique a lot. “Look at my hands shake.” I have a condition… Then get to message
    I learned this from a stutter sufferer. Who upfront said I stutter please dont help it makes it worse things will improve. It always did

  29. - wndycty - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    I commend Kennedy for the disclosure and this is definitely not anything that will impact his ability to lead the state. However, I must take issue with his campaign advisors’ decision (or maybe even his) not to disclose this proactively.

    Anyone in Kennedy’s inner circle who knew of the condition should have know that sooner or later it would impact him publicly. Proactively acknowledging the hereditary disorder would have allowed him to control the narrative, doing so after an incident is never a good look.

    This is not fatal to his campaign, this is not a big problem but from a campaign strategy/management perspective its a misstep for them not to have proactively disclosed.

  30. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 10:46 am:

    ===Only if the other side is trying to be kind.===

    Are you assuming the other side, the GOP, won’t be kind? Lol. They lack any shred of human decency, so yeah, I agree it’s a fair assumption.

  31. - Cubs in '16 - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 10:59 am:

    ===Only if the other side is trying to be kind.===

    ===Are you assuming the other side, the GOP, won’t be kind? Lol. They lack any shred of human decency, so yeah, I agree it’s a fair assumption.===

    I agree it’s a fair assumption. Perhaps event organizers could provide every candidate with a podium or the option for one. Seems reasonable to me but that’s probably the rub.

  32. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 11:28 am:

    His shakey hands aren’t the worst of his appearance problem. It just doesn’t help.

    Rauner? He got elected, so looks aren’t everything though.

    Not every elected official needs to look like Jim Edgar to win.

  33. - Responsa - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 11:32 am:

    This is about the candidates’s/campaign’s judgement, not about the medical condition itself. Surely there could have been no reasonable expectation on Chris’ part that the shaking could be masked for the duration of the campaign or any reasonable expectation that questions would not be asked when the condition presented itself publicly during the rigors of the campaign.

    Re-actively rather than proactively seems like a foolish way to mange the perception and allow it all to come out. This is politics fer heaven sake. Bigger question: Were his early backers and contributors aware of this before yesterday, I wonder?

  34. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 11:37 am:

    Hopefully, he does not need a psychic healer like Rasputin.

  35. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 11:44 am:

    ===Were his early backers and contributors aware of this before yesterday, I wonder?===

    Why? Is this debilitating? Does this make Kennedy unable to be governor?

    What are you saying… exactly?

  36. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 11:49 am:

    ===Does this make Kennedy unable to be governor?===

    No, but it might possibly make him unable to win. We’ll see. Hence, the reference to campaign backers.

  37. - Keyser Soze - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 11:56 am:

    It would be a handicap in poker. Politics is another matter.

  38. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 12:02 pm:

    ===No, but it might possibly make him unable to win. We’ll see. Hence, the reference to campaign backers===

    I get that, completely understand it.

    I guess I’m coming at it, “How strong are these early backers towards Kennedy if a whole year out Kennedy discloses this, as it seems it can’t be ignored, and his ability to govern isn’t at question.?”

    Ads shoot around all things, like “best sides” or “better imagery”.

    I completely agree. We’ll see. I guess I’m questioning out loud, a year out, if this a deal breaker with disclosure, how deep is that support.

    That in of itself could be a problem, with a reason to flee now.

  39. - Mama - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    If Kennedy polls well, you can bet your a*s Rauner will make a big deal out of Kennedy’s hand tremors.

  40. - ChrisB - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 12:40 pm:

    Watching the same commenters who whispered in hushed tones about how Sen. Kirk looked in front of a camera come and defend Kennedy is pretty rich.

  41. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 12:46 pm:

    ===Watching the same commenters who whispered in hushed tones about how Sen. Kirk looked in front of a camera come and defend Kennedy is pretty rich.===

    Really? How so? That’s an interesting observation…

  42. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 12:56 pm:

    ChrisB, Ron Gidwitz is defending Kennedy here?

    The loudest noises in Kirk’s race were the silence and lack of money from McConnell and his RSCC and Rauner and his Illinois GOP.

  43. - downstate dem - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 4:44 pm:

    Kennedy went public with this info a couple years ago in a speech, but it’s good to hang a lantern on this in a campaign to be transparent about this personal challenge that may humanize him.

  44. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 29, 17 @ 4:53 pm:

    ===Kennedy went public with this info a couple years ago in a speech…===

    … and yet, it wasn’t public enough for a campaign. To that…

    ===…but it’s good to hang a lantern on this in a campaign to be transparent about this personal challenge…====

    Yes. But it’s not just a “lantern”, this is a flashing light now, due in part for the revisiting of what you claim was “public”, but not public “enough”

    ===…that may humanize him.===

    I dunno if I’d publicly say this, but there is the “human” factor to pivot to… after explaining why this wasn’t talked about earlier.

  45. - Manual Ladd - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 1:14 am:

    Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your blog? My blog site is in the exact same niche as yours and my users would definitely benefit from a lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks a lot!|

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
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