Robert Kennedy Still Matters
It was 55 years ago that Robert Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles, following what should have been a game changing primary victory in California. In comparison to what we see now, his campaign was only a few months old. That it even started was a matter of controversy. RFK had struggled with a decision and his announcement came after Senator Eugene McCarthy had shown that President Johnson was vulnerable. Kennedy was criticized for opportunism, and not the for the first time in his political career.
On March 16th of 19688, he jumped into the race
I understand the controversy over deciding to enter the race. But I also know, through my own reading and digging, there was no more recognizable person offering a different course, a different vision for the country. The Robert Kennedy that emerged out of the enormous grief over his brother’s assassination was a very differnt person than prior years. It was one of a person who used his own pain and suffering to understand and see it elsewhere, and do what you could to ease it.
I look at video of RFK going to Bedford-Stuyvesant, to the poorest areas of Kentucky and Mississippi to talk to these people, to touch them, to tell their story to the press that followed a nationally known Senator. I think now, do you see out elect leaders going to the most challenging places? No. You see them going to only celebrate something that helps some company or something similarly self celebrating.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
No we live in a world of political calculation, less so the idea of using government for the good of all. You only need look at the recent deal on the government debt to see that. You can look at Massachusetts and see a government that, after people voted to increase taxes on the wealthiest, wants to enact policies to give half of it back. Never mind that these people already pay less than the working people of the state.
“I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.”
It’s why I look back at the last few years of Robert Kennedy’s life and think about why we need leaders that do what is right, not what is expedient. We lack courage and bold vision, which is reflected in the government. Every once in a while we see something bold happen and stare in astonishment, wow look at that!
So I still look back for inspiration, for the times when I feel that all hope is lost. We need to believe that we can and should do better, that every moment we wait is a lost moment and harder to make up.
Robert Kennedy read a lot of classic works, trying to make sense of the human condition. Among those he quoted was Tennyson’s Ulysses and I leave you with this.
Come my friends, tis not to late to seek a newer world.