Quoted over on the Thoughts from Idaho blog is my all-time favorite speech by Robert F. Kennedy. This speech has been on my mind since Friday, apparent in my post for Sunday, January 29th, and now the motivation behind a post that I am sure will ruffle a few feathers.
Placed on a photo I took at the grave of Robert F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, reads the quote: "It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped." What I did not place on that photo are the words that come before that moving statement, words that have at times forced me to speak when I otherwise would have remained silent-- "Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation."
I belong to a generation bogged down in apathy. My generation is still looking for the next excuse to ignore responsibility. On the whole, I am not your typical twenty year old, and I know it. I know that the responsibilities that are shrugged off by my counterparts are the responsibilities I hold highest in importance. At times I feel I may be one of the few who truly understands what Bobby Kennedy meant when he spoke of us each working to change a "smaller portion of events." And I will be the first to admit that I wish I did not take those words so seriously. At times those words lead me into the fire.
Last week I wrote an article that brought an equal number of people critical of my beliefs and people praising my audacity. In all honesty, I am not here to ask for anyone's forgiveness. I am here to say that I stand by that article and will continue to feel the way I do, as well as speak out about the issue, until a change occurs. If you disagree with that, then you have come to the wrong place.
I am not here to impress anyone. I am here because every day should be a learning experience- an open forum on human behavior, passion, and progress. And if you are here reading this blog, you must also seek to learn more, expand your horizons, and take the challenge of working to change the "smaller portion of events" in human history that Kennedy spoke of. I know that there are those who despise me for whatever reason. I know there are those who will always believe ridiculous things about me. And I know that there are those who wish to silence me. I am here to say that I do not for a second care. No one will stop me from believing in the causes I do and no one will stop me from speaking out. The United States Constitution protects me in this medium and in any other form in which I choose to express my ideas.
When Robert F. Kennedy said that "few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society," he knew there would be those few that would risk it all for the cause. He knew, just as I know and have always known, that there are times when a person must stand up with the sound of their voice carrying the weight of their cause. There are times when as humans we are obligated to let the power of our words be the force for the spreading and initiation of our ideas.
In the last several days I have received several phone calls and emails defining my mistakes-- many of them from people who have never even met me-- all I would like to say to them and everyone else listening is this: I can clearly define the biggest mistake I have made in my twenty years and it sure as hell was not writing that article.
"All of us will ultimately be judged and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves, on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that effort."The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society."
All quotations by Robert F. Kennedy are from his "Day of Affirmation" speech at the University of Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966. The quotation: "It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped," is a portion of the inscription on the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite at Arlington.