Friday, June 06, 2008

Remembering RFK

I was am a huge fan of the Kennedy family. John F. Kennedy inspired me to have an interest in politics -- when I was just 7 years old. Like many, I was devastated when JFK was killed. It was Bobby Kennedy, in 1968, who gave many of us a reason to continue our love of politics.

And I have written in the past about the important role Bobby played in Indianapolis on the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. It was Bobby's compassion and understanding that kept peace in our city that night.

It's hard to believe it's been 40 years since his death.

“My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”
- Sen. Edward Kennedy, June 8, 1968

"... [S]uddenly, my father entered. He looked haunted and started talking to me, shaking his head in distress as he described the people he’d met in the [Mississippi] Delta. “I was with a family who live in a shack the size of this dining room,” he told me. “The children’s stomachs were distended and had sores all over them. They were starving.” He was outraged that this could happen in the world’s richest country.

“Do you know how lucky you are?” he asked me, and then repeated, “Do you know how lucky you are? You have a great responsibility. Do something for these children. Do something for our country.”

I can’t remember what I said. ... I wanted to think about how I might act on his advice, but for the moment felt only the importance of his giving it."
-Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

"... Robert Kennedy had a wonderful way of allowing others to tell him how the world looked through their eyes. Indeed, so many people across this nation were grateful for his belief in their worth — they knew his faith in the humanity of his fellow Americans.

He lived by a moral compass that others, less certain of their direction, looked to for guidance. Even if what he asked was hard to hear and heed, he gave others the strength to believe not just in his guidance but in themselves.

The truth is, we all just plain loved him."
- Joseph P. Kennedy II

"As an adult, I recognize that the lessons my father taught us children mirrored the beliefs he wanted the nation to embrace — that we must build a system of justice which enjoys the confidence of all sides; that peace is not something to pray for, but something everyone has the responsibility to create every day; and that we must muster the courage to face the truth about ourselves as well as those we consider our enemies. [...]

You may wonder why a father would ask his expanding brood of what would become 11 children to memorize a poem (Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade”) about slaughter and war. I think there were three reasons. He wanted us to share his love of literature and he wanted us to embrace challenges that appear daunting. But most of all, he believed it imperative to question authority, and those who failed that lesson did so at their peril.

Forty years after Robert Kennedy’s last campaign, I think those are also the lessons he would have liked to impart to all Americans. Facing daunting challenges both nationally and globally, we must rise to meet them armed with courage, love and an abiding commitment to justice, yet girded with a healthy sense of skepticism."
- Kerry Kennedy


Robert Francis Kennedy
Remembering Our Father
Sneaking Into History


Dean Wormer said...

Thank you for this post.

That quote from Kathleen Kennedy choked me up. It captures Bobby to a tee.

I was just a toddler when he was shot but I have vivid memories from a few years later of sneaking downstairs late and listening to my parents speak in hushed tones about the loss of John, Martin and Bobby.

Even years later it brought them to tears. I was like somebody had killed hope.

But you can never reall kill hope. You can just make us forget what it feels like for a while.


FranIAm said...

Oh BAC, this is outstanding.

He was a true hero; I don't know that we ever got over his loss as a nation.

At age 10, I can recall very clearly what it was like the day he died; the sadness and the rage was palpable, even more than it had been in April of that year when MLK was assassinated.

dguzman said...

All these quotations choked me up, BAC. I think the reason I love the Kennedys so much is that they showed what people with power and money are capable of doing but so few actually do: truly helping our country, being a force for change, caring about "the little guy" and the poor and hungry. They inspired us all, and Bobby should've lived--to end the Vietnam War, to prevent the travesty that was Nixon, and to heal our nation.

Bill Stankus said...

I was in college and RFK stopped in our NorthCal town and I went to see him ... weeks later his murder in LA. The murders of JFK and MLK were surreal - something so strange it was unthinkable and difficult to grasp but when Bobby went down so did the energy of many good folks - too many blows to the collective soul. We still haven't fully recovered ... I've never really recovered from the loss.

btw, I just found your blog and I love the vibe.

BAC said...

Bill - welcome and thanks! Stop back by again.