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Our Opinion: Adam Hinds' record makes him a capable leader for Kennedy Institute's critical civic mission

Adam Hinds, who represented the Berkshires in the Massachusetts Senate for six years, is trading electoral politics for civic advocacy as he takes the helm at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The Boston-based nonprofit institute’s mission — educating the public about the U.S. Senate’s role in government, encouraging participatory democracy and invigorating civil discourse — has never been more difficult or more critical.

Mr. Hinds ran for lieutenant governor earlier this year, although his campaign was cut short at the state Democratic convention when the headwinds that push against even the most qualified candidates from this end of the commonwealth kept him off the primary ballot. It’s good to see this public servant with Berkshire roots bounce back by seizing the opportunity of this role, which will amplify a strong and well-versed voice from Western Massachusetts in an organization with national reach.

The Kennedy Institute must really hear something in that voice. Its board chairman said Mr. Hinds was one of 160 considered for the job of CEO and executive director. We’re not surprised he stood out, given his experience inside legislative institutions and elsewhere. Before representing the state’s westernmost Senate district on Beacon Hill, he was an aide to former U.S. Rep. John Olver, led two Berkshire-based nonprofits and served nearly a decade as a Mideast-based United Nations negotiator. That unique toolkit along with a broad range of policy and personal perspectives offer much to an institute whose guiding principles are needed more than ever.

Mr. Hinds said what drew him to the position was the same thing that drove the Kennedy Institute to redouble its efforts: the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and the dire need to reduce the threat of political violence from not only grinding the gears of democracy but tearing the republic apart at the seams. Indeed, Mr. Hinds and the Kennedy Institute have their work cut out for them. Recent polling indicates a dismal 23 percent of the country approves of how Congress is handling its job — a sad high point for that measure so far this year. Many Americans view the U.S. Senate as both chaotic and sclerotic though rarely productive — and they’re not entirely wrong. Meanwhile, in Berkshire communities and beyond, our national political climate’s toxic precipitation trickles down to local politics, often sharpening the discourse and blunting the prospects for participatory democracy.

We must recognize those ills, though we need not accept them as given. We all have our parts to play, but groups like the Edward M. Kennedy Institute must embrace the crucial project of upgrading our nation’s civic education and democratic discourse. It’s a tough job, but we are glad to see a capable and familiar figure take a position on the front line. If anyone has the background and the backbone to lead that campaign for a more decent democracy and a more productive polity, we believe it’s Adam Hinds. We wish him luck and success in this new chapter of public service.

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