Sunday, November 20, 2005

TDIH: Robert F. Kennedy

From the moment I knew who the Kennedys were, I have always believed that Jack was the voice, the candidate, and the charisma. I have always known that Teddy was the hardliner, the cement left to hold the family together, and the senator every young Democrat aspires to be. From the moment I knew they were, I have held a respect for Bobby Kennedy that no other member of that family is given. He wasn't the image Jack portrayed, nor was he wasn't blessed with the longevity of Teddy. Jack was the candidate, Teddy the politician, and Bobby the genius.

Today, on what would have been his 80th birthday, I know more than ever the influence of Robert F. Kennedy. Most Americans remember JFK, most love or despise Senator Kennedy (D-MA), and most Americans don't know much about RFK. I guess I'm not most Americans.

Robert Francis Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on November 20, 1925. He was the seventh child of Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Patrick Kennedy. Having a Harvard education, experience in the Navy, a law degree, the title of Attorney General of the United States, and the Kennedy name, it must have been no surprise when in 1968 he announced his candidacy for President.

But as Emerson once said, "Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it." Bobby Kennedy, more so than his brother before him, knew the dangers of such a campaign.

In 1968 when Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election after the surprising New Hampshire primary, there was not just hope for peace in Vietnam, but hope for a whole new generation of Americans as there had once been in 1960.

Just as that hope was defeated November 22, 1963 in Dallas, hope was again defeated on June 6, 1968 in Los Angeles. The assassination of Bobby Kennedy was a blow to the Democratic Party and the nation. The influence, however, of Robert F. Kennedy remains.

You can use your enormous privilege and opportunity to seek purely private pleasure and gain. But history will judge you-- and, as the years pass, you will ultimately judge yourself-- on the extent to which you have used your gifts to lighten and enrich the lives of your fellow man. In your hands-- not with presidents or leaders-- is the future of your world and the fulfillment of the best qualities of your own spirit.
I wish I had been there that October day at Berkeley when he spoke those words. Even now, over thirty years later, having never heard those words in person, they ring in my mind. When I was at Arlington National Cemetery I spent a moment at the grave of RFK and as I stood there, humbled by the magnitude of his legacy and yet the simplicity of a white cross secluded from the shrine to his assassinated brother, the belief in me was stronger than ever that had Bobby Kennedy survived that fateful night in the Ambassador Hotel, we would all be living in a much different world.

This day in history the lesser known Kennedy brother was born. This day in history saw the birth of one of the greatest minds in politics.

4 comments:

Nick Speth said...

I know about RFK, it's the stadium the Washington Redskins used to play in. Lol.

I'd have loved to see what Robert Kennedy would have done as his career progressed. Not only would it have been fun to see, it would have very likely done the country good.

Of course maybe not. If we assume the Reagan revolution was good for the country, then we can infer this. Let's say RFK was never killed and went on to win the '68 democratic nomination. Let's then say that he went on to beat Nixon (handing Nixon his second loss to a Kennedy). Let's then assume he wins reelection and Nixon retires without ever having become president.

Stay with me here it's going somewhere.

Nixon never sees the watergate scandal because there was no president Nixon. Therefore no sweeping changes are ever implimented in the RNC to bring about Reagan.

Yikes. I don't know how much of that's true, but it's fun to think about.

Tara A. Rowe said...

I'd like to think that Kennedy would have won in '68, which would mean no McGovern Rules, no McGovern altogether. McGovern, I am convinced, was detrimental to the Democratic Party.

It would be safe to say Mondale and Jimmy Carter may never have had their 15 minutes of fame and we still would have ended up with Reagan in the White House, he was of course waiting in the wings as it was.

U.S. History without "Tricky Dick" Nixon and the Watergate Scandal? Now there's an interesting thought. I wonder what would have become of Vietnam. But of course I wonder about that with JFK's assassination as well.

Cory said...

Tara...your love of RFK is inspiring...

Tara A. Rowe said...

Thanks, Cory. My admiration for RFK surprises some people.