“I’m sure my brother would have called him a profile in courage. I feel the same way.”

Senator Ted Kennedy


Joy and Peter

After graduating from Smith College in 1963, Joy served for six years as Peter’s executive assistant in his Washington, D.C. office. She later attended Northeastern University School of Law, and pursued a career as a public interest attorney, investigating consumer protection violations for the Federal Trade Commission, prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases as an Assistant County Attorney in upstate New York, serving as a Law Guardian for abused and neglected children in New Jersey, and representing a New Jersey county welfare agency in child support hearings.

In 1987 a former colleague asked her to speak to Peter about a legislative issue, and their destinies converged. They were married in 1989, just as Peter was retiring from forty years of service in Congress and beginning his new career as a Professor at Seton Hall University School of Law.

In addition to her legal career, Joy is a Reiki Master, Certified Cymatherapy Practitioner, and presents Stress Management/Optimal Performance trainings.


Peter cared so deeply about the Preamble to the Constitution that he spoke of it constantly, with great passion. Often, when he came home from teaching, totally energized by his interactions with the students, I would ask him to recount what he had told them that day. As often as I had heard his words, even my heart was inspired anew.

So it was no surprise that when a friend came to lunch one day, she also was captivated by Peter’s reverence for the Preamble. As I was walking her to her car, she suggested that I write a “little” book about these principles, and how they guided Peter’s life. It was one of those “ah ha” moments – the seed had been planted, and has now bloomed.
Peter was a wonderful teacher – many of his students told me that his was the best class they had ever taken. For them, it was a chance to hear about history from the person who made it.

Peter taught until shortly before his death, at age 95. At what was to be his last class, a group of visiting law students from Italy were brought in to hear him speak. Not missing a beat, and much to their surprise and delight, Peter began to converse with them in Italian.

Above all, Peter wanted to instill in his students a commitment to public service, and a reverence for the blessings of liberty that we so often take for granted. Peter made an impact on our country and on everyone he met by truly living a life that mattered. It is my hope that this little book will inspire you as Peter inspired me.

FROM THE BOOK: Excerpt 1

We married in 1989, just as Peter retired from Congress and began his new career as a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law.

That was when I first heard Peter express his admiration for what five of our Founding Fathers were able to accomplish over the course of six short days: drafting the fifty-two words that would become the Preamble to the Constitution. To him, the Constitution was the heart of our nation, the mechanism that gave life to the system under which we live, a government of checks and balances, of rights and responsibilities. The Preamble was our country’s soul, not only projecting a vision of who we are as a people but also expressing the limitless possibilities of all that we can be:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Those fifty-two words were as sacred to my husband as the Bible. He made reference to them in every discussion he had about politics and the state of the world, in every speech he gave and in every class he led.

FROM THE BOOK: Excerpt 2

As the impeachment inquiry began, Peter remembered those words of his father that had instilled in him a high moral standard and respect for people in authority. As he told me, “The last thing I wanted to do was to impeach the president and hold him responsible for misdeeds which would have caused us to remove him from office.”5 Peter said that he venerated the office of the president and that it was important that he not be viewed as the “Democratic” chairman. He had to demonstrate both by word and by deed his impartiality.
. . . .
In late July 1974, the committee held a televised debate about whether to recommend a resolution, together with articles of impeachment, to impeach the president of the United States. There were three articles of impeachment, charging that one, the president had acted to cover up the Watergate break-in; two, he had abused the powers of his office; and three, he had obstructed justice. Peter recalled that when, in a hushed voice, he voted aye to recommend impeachment on the first article, he felt completely drained. At the conclusion of that historic vote, he adjourned the meeting, bypassed all the reporters and staff, went into his little office off the committee room, and called his wife. “Ann,” he said, “I guess you heard.” And he put the phone down and burst into tears.

In anguish, “we the people” had spoken. The “more perfect union,” a nation of laws, not of men, had been preserved.