Robert F. Kennedy was a man of passionate conviction, carrying a message of change, and for the forlorn and dispossessed of America, a message of hope. - Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
"The [next] priority for change-the first element of a new politics for the United States-is in our policy toward the world. Too much and for too long, we have acted as if our great military might and wealth could bring about an American solution to every world problem..." -Robert F. Kennedy, 1968
Quality of Life
"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."
Address, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, March 18, 1968
Ripple of Hope
"Few will have the greatness to bend history; 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 ... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. 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."
Day of Affirmation Address, University of Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966
Robert Francis Kennedy was born on November 20, 1925, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the seventh child in the closely knit and competitive family of Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy. "I was the seventh of nine children," he later recalled, "and when you come from that far down you have to struggle to survive."
He attended Milton Academy and, after wartime service in the Navy, received his degree in government from Harvard University in 1948. He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia Law School three years later. Perhaps more important for his education was the Kennedy family dinner table, where his parents involved their children in discussions of history and current affairs. "I can hardly remember a mealtime," Robert Kennedy said, "when the conversation was not dominated by what Franklin D. Roosevelt was doing or what was happening in the world."
In 1950, Robert Kennedy married Ethel Skakel of Greenwich, Connecticut, daughter of Ann Brannack Skakel and George Skakel, founder of Great Lakes Carbon Corporation. Robert and Ethel Kennedy later had eleven children. In 1952, he made his political debut as manager of his older brother John's successful campaign for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. The following year, he served briefly on the staff of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Kennedy's investigative work confirmed reports that countries allied with the United States against Communist China in the Korean War were also shipping goods to Communist China, but did not imply, as Senator McCarthy often did, that traitors were making American foreign policy.
Disturbed by McCarthy's controversial tactics, Kennedy resigned from the staff after six months. He later returned to the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations as chief counsel for the Democratic minority, in which capacity he wrote a report condemning McCarthy's investigation of alleged Communists in the Army. His later work as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee investigating corruption in trade unions won him national recognition for his investigations of Teamsters Union leaders Jimmy Hoffa and David Beck.
In 1960 he was the tireless and effective manager of John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. After the election, he was appointed Attorney General in President Kennedy's Cabinet. While Attorney General he won respect for his diligent, effective and nonpartisan administration of the Department of Justice.
Attorney General Kennedy launched a successful drive against organized crime - convictions against organized crime figures rose by 800% during his tenure - and became increasingly committed to the rights of African Americans to vote, attend school and use public accommodations. He demonstrated his commitment to civil rights during a 1961 speech at the University of Georgia Law School:
"We will not stand by or be aloof. We will move. I happen to believe that the 1954 [Supreme Court school desegregation] decision was right. But my belief does not matter. It is the law. Some of you may believe the decision was wrong. That does not matter. It is the law."
In September 1962, Attorney General Kennedy sent U.S. Marshals and troops to Oxford, Mississippi to enforce a Federal court order admitting the first African American student - James Meredith - to the University of Mississippi. The riot that had followed Meredith's registration at "Ole Miss" had left two dead and hundreds injured. Robert Kennedy saw voting as the key to racial justice and collaborated with President Kennedy when he proposed the most far-reaching civil rights statute since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed after President Kennedy was slain on November 22, 1963.
Robert Kennedy was not only President Kennedy's Attorney General, he was also his closest advisor and confidant. As a result of this unique relationship, the Attorney General played a key role in several critical foreign policy decisions. During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, for instance, he helped develop the Kennedy Administration's strategy to blockade Cuba instead of taking military action that could have led to nuclear war and then negotiated with the Soviet Union on removal of the weapons.
Soon after President Kennedy's death, Robert Kennedy resigned as Attorney General and, in 1964, ran successfully for the United States Senate from New York. His opponent, incumbent Republican Senator Kenneth Keating, labeled Kennedy a "carpetbagger" during the closely contested campaign. Kennedy responded to the attacks with humor.
"I have [had] really two choices over the period of the last ten months," he said at Columbia University. "I could have stayed in - I could have retired. [Laughter.] And I - my father has done very well and I could have lived off him. [Laughter and applause.] ... I tell you frankly I don't need this title because I [could] be called General, I understand, for the rest of my life. [Laughter and applause.] And I don't need the money and I don't need the office space ... [Laughter.] ... Frank as it is - and maybe it's difficult to believe in the state of New York - I'd like to just be a good United States Senator. I'd like to serve." Kennedy waged an effective statewide campaign and, aided by President Lyndon Johnson's landslide, won the November election by 719,000 votes.
As New York's Senator, he initiated a number of projects in the state, including assistance to underprivileged children and students with disabilities and the establishment of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation to improve living conditions and employment opportunities in depressed areas of Brooklyn. Now in its 32nd year, the program remains a model for communities all across the nation.
These programs were part of a larger effort to address the needs of the dispossessed and powerless in America - the poor, the young, racial minorities and Native Americans. He sought to bring the facts about poverty to the conscience of the American people, journeying into urban ghettos, Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta and migrant workers' camps. "There are children in the Mississippi Delta," he said, "whose bellies are swollen with hunger ... Many of them cannot go to school because they have no clothes or shoes. These conditions are not confined to rural Mississippi. They exist in dark tenements in Washington, D.C., within sight of the Capitol, in Harlem, in South Side Chicago, in Watts. There are children in each of these areas who have never been to school, never seen a doctor or a dentist. There are children who have never heard conversation in their homes, never read or even seen a book."
He sought to remedy the problems of poverty through legislation to encourage private industry to locate in poverty-stricken areas, thus creating jobs for the unemployed, and stressed the importance of work over welfare.
Robert Kennedy was also committed to the advancement of human rights abroad. He traveled to Eastern Europe, Latin America and South Africa to share his belief that all people have a basic human right to participate in the political decisions that affect their lives and to criticize their government without fear of reprisal. He also believed that those who strike out against injustice show the highest form of courage. "Each time a man stands up for an ideal," he said in a 1966 speech to South African students, "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 that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Kennedy was also absorbed during his Senate years by a quest to end the war in Vietnam. As a new Senator, Kennedy had originally supported the Johnson Administration's policies in Vietnam, but called for a greater commitment to a negotiated settlement and a renewed emphasis on economic and political advancement within South Vietnam. As the war continued to widen and America's involvement deepened, Senator Kennedy came to have serious misgivings about President Johnson's conduct of the war. Kennedy publicly broke with the Johnson Administration for the first time in February 1966, proposing participation by all sides (including the Vietcong's political arm, the National Liberation Front) in the political life of South Vietnam. The following year, he took responsibility for his role in the Kennedy Administration's policy in the Southeast Asia, and urged President Johnson to cease the bombing of North Vietnam and reduce, rather than enlarge, the war effort.
In his final Senate speech on Vietnam, Kennedy said, "Are we like the God of the Old Testament that we can decide, in Washington, D.C., what cities, what towns, what hamlets in Vietnam are going to be destroyed? ... Do we have to accept that? ... I do not think we have to. I think we can do something about it."
On March 18, 1968, Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. It was, in the words of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "an uproarious campaign, filled with enthusiasm and fun ... It was also a campaign moving in its sweep and passion." Indeed, he challenged the complacent in American society and sought to bridge the great divides in American life - between the races, between the poor and the more affluent, between young and old, between order and dissent. His 1968 campaign brought hope and challenge to an American people troubled by discontent and violence at home and war in Vietnam. He won critical primaries in Indiana and Nebraska and spoke to enthusiastic crowds across the nation.
Robert Francis Kennedy was slain on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California shortly after claiming victory in that state's crucial Democratic primary. He was 42 years old. Although his life was cut short, Robert Kennedy's vision and ideals live on today through the work of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Bill Introduced in Congress to Name Justice Department Building After
Robert F. Kennedy
(June 25, 1999) - A bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to rename the Justice Department building after Robert F. Kennedy. The bipartisan bill (H.R. 2286) was introduced on June 18th by Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL) along with 1999 RFK Book Award winner Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Tim Roemer (D-IN) and Rep. Jack Quinn (R-NY).
The four congressmen held a press conference on June 24th to talk about the legacy of Robert Kennedy and their bipartisan effort to designate the Department of Justice's headquarters as the "Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building."
"I can think of no more fitting and appropriate way to honor this great man's legacy," said Rep. Lewis, who as a civil rights leader in the 1960s worked closely with Attorney General Kennedy. "Robert F. Kennedy embodied the best that America has to offer. He was a champion of the poor, the voiceless and the forgotten. He possessed a passion for justice and fought hard for what is right."
The bill has been referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is expected to take up the measure in the near future. "I'm very confident that in the near future the Justice Department will be renamed for Robert F. Kennedy," said Rep. Scarborough.
Robert Kennedy was appointed Attorney General in President Kennedy's Cabinet in 1961. While Attorney General he won respect for his diligent, effective and nonpartisan administration of the Department of Justice. He launched a successful drive against organized crime and was committed to the rights of African Americans to vote, attend school and use public accommodations. Robert Kennedy resigned as Attorney General in 1964 to run for the United States Senate from New York.
to John F. Kennedy at the Democratic National Convention
Atlantic City, New Jersey
August 27, 1964
Mr. Chairman--Mr.. Speaker, Mr. Chairman, Mrs. Johnson, Senator Jackson, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to speak just for a few moments.
I first want to thank all of you delegates to the Democratic National Convention and the supporters of the Democratic Party for all that you did for President John F. Kennedy.
I want to express my appreciation to you for the efforts that you made on his behalf at the convention four years ago, the efforts that you made on his behalf for his election in November of 1960, and perhaps most importantly, the encouragement and the strength that you gave him after he was elected President of the United States.
I know that it was a source of the greatest strength to him to know that there were thousands of people all over the United States who were together with him, dedicated to certain principles and to certain ideals.
No matter what talent an individual possesses, what energy he might have, no matter how much integrity and how much honesty he might have, if he is by himself, and particularly a political figure, he can accomplish very little. But if he is sustained, as President Kennedy was, by the Democratic Party all over the United States, dedicated to the same things that he was attempting to accomplish, he can accomplish a great deal.
No one knew that more than President John F. Kennedy. He used to take great pride in telling of the trip that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison made up the Hudson River in 1800 on a botanical expedition searching for butterflies; that they ended up down in New York City and that they formed the Democratic Party.
He took great pride in the fact that the Democratic Party was the oldest political Party in the world, and he knew that this linkage of Madison and Jefferson with the leaders in New York combined the North and South, and combined the industrial areas of the country with the rural farms and that this combination was always dedicated to progress and all of our Presidents have been dedicated to progress.
He thought of Thomas Jefferson in the Louisiana Purchase, and also when Jefferson realized that the United States could not remain on the Eastern Seaboard and sent Lewis and Clark to the West Coast; of Andrew Jackson; of Woodrow Wilson; of Franklin Roosevelt who saved our citizens who were in great despair because of the financial crisis; of Harry Truman who not only spoke but acted for freedom.
So, when he became President he not only had his own principles and his own ideals but he had the strength of the Democratic Party. As President he wanted to do something for the mentally ill and the mentally retarded; for those who were not covered by Social Security; for those who were not receiving an adequate minimum wage; for those who did not have adequate housing; for our elderly people who had difficulty paying their medical bills; for our fellow citizens who are not white and who had difficulty living in this society. To all this he dedicated himself.
But he realized also that in order for us to make progress here at home, that we had to be strong overseas, that our military strength had to be strong. He said one time, "Only when our arms are sufficient, without doubt, can we be certain, without doubt, that they will never have to be employed." So when we had the crisis with the Soviet Union and the Communist Bloc in October of 1962, the Soviet Union withdrew their missiles and bombers from Cuba.
Even beyond that, his idea really was that this country, that this world, should be a better place when we turned it over to the next generation than when we inherited it from the last generation. That is why--with all of the other efforts that he made--the Test Ban Treaty, which was done with Averell Harriman, was so important to him.
And that's why he made such an effort and was committed to the young people not only of the United States but to the young people of the world. And in all of these efforts you were there all of you.
When there were difficulties, you sustained him.
When there were periods of crisis, you stood beside him. When there were periods of happiness, you laughed with him. And when there were periods of sorrow, you comforted him. I realize that as individuals we can't just look back, that we must look forward. When I think of President Kennedy, I think of what Shakespeare said in Romeo and Juliet:
When he shall die
Take him and cut him out into stars
And he shall make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
I realize that as individuals, and even more important, as a political party and as a country, we can't just look to the past, we must look to the future.
So I join with you in realizing that what started four years ago--what everyone here started four years ago--that is to be sustained; that is to be continued.
The same effort and the same energy and the same dedication that was given to President John F. Kennedy must be given to President Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey.
If we make that evident, it will not only be for the benefit of the Democratic Party, but, far more important, it will be for the benefit of this whole country.
When we look at this film we must think that President Kennedy once said:
"We have the capacity to make this the best generation in the history of mankind, or make it the last."
If we do our duty, if we meet our responsibilities and our obligations, not just as Democrats, but as American citizens in our local cities and towns and farms and our states and in the country as a whole, then this generation of Americans is going to be the best generation in the history of mankind.
He often quoted from Robert Frost--and said it applied to himself--but we could apply it to the Democratic Party and to all of us as individuals:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
Announcement of Candidacy for President
Washington, D.C. March 16, 1968
I am today announcing my candidacy for the presidency of the United States.
I do not run for the presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new policies. I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I'm obliged to do all that I can.
I run to seek new policies - policies to end the bloodshed in Vietnam and in our cities, policies to close the gaps that now exist between black and white, between rich and poor, between young and old, in this country and around the rest of the world.
I run for the presidency because I want the Democratic Party and the United States of America to stand for hope instead of despair, for reconciliation of men instead of the growing risk of world war.
I run because it is now unmistakably clear that we can change these disastrous, divisive policies only by changing the men who are now making them. For the reality of recent events in Vietnam has been glossed over with illusions.
The Report of the Riot Commission has been largely ignored.
The crisis in gold, the crisis in our cities, the crisis in our farms and in our ghettos have all been met with too little and too late.
No one knows what I know about the extraordinary demands of the presidency can be certain that any mortal can adequately fill that position.
But my service in the National Security Council during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin crisis of 1961 and 1962, and later the negotiations on Laos and on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty have taught me something about both the uses and limitations of military power, about the opportunities and the dangers which await our nation in many corners of the globe in which I have traveled.
As a member of the cabinet and member of the Senate I have seen the inexcusable and ugly deprivation which causes children to starve in Mississippi, black citizens to riot in Watts; young Indians to commit suicide on their reservations because they've lacked all hope and they feel they have no future, and proud and able-bodied families to wait our their lives in empty idleness in eastern Kentucky.
I have traveled and I have listened to the young people of our nation and felt their anger about the war that they are sent to fight and about the world they are about to inherit.
In private talks and in public, I have tried in vain to alter our course in Vietnam before it further saps our spirit and our manpower, further raises the risks of wider war, and further destroys the country and the people it was meant to save.
I cannot stand aside from the contest that will decide our nation's future and our children's future.
The remarkable New Hampshire campaign of Senator Eugene McCarthy has proven how deep are the present divisions within our party and within our country. Until that was publicly clear, my presence in the race would have been seen as a clash of personalities rather than issues.
But now that the fight is on and over policies which I have long been challenging, I must enter the race. The fight is just beginning and I believe that I can win ...
Finally, my decision reflects no personal animosity or disrespect toward President Johnson. He served President Kennedy with the utmost loyalty and was extremely kind to me and members of my family in the difficult months which followed the events of November of 1963.
I have often commended his efforts in health, in education, and in many other areas, and I have the deepest sympathy for the burden that he carries today.
But the issue is not personal. It is our profound differences over where we are heading and what we want to accomplish.
I do not lightly dismiss the dangers and the difficulties of challenging an incumbent President. But these are not ordinary times and this is not an ordinary election.
At stake is not simply the leadership of our party and even our country. It is our right to moral leadership of this planet.
On the Mindless Menace of Violence
City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio April 5, 1968
This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.
It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.
Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.
No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.
Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lost their cause and pay the costs."
Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.
Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.
Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.
For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.
This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.
I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.
We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.
Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.
We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.
Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.
But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.
Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.
to Senator Robert F. Kennedy By Senator Edward M. Kennedy
St. Patrick's Cathedral
New York City
June 8, 1968
On behalf of Mrs. Robert Kennedy, her children and the parents and sisters of Robert Kennedy, I want to express what we feel to those who mourn with us today in this Cathedral and around the world. We loved him as a brother and father and son. From his parents, and from his older brothers and sisters--Joe, Kathleen and Jack--he received inspiration which he passed on to all of us. He gave us strength in time of trouble, wisdom in time of uncertainty, and sharing in time of happiness. He was always by our side.
Love is not an easy feeling to put into words. Nor is loyalty, or trust or joy. But he was all of these. He loved life completely and lived it intensely.
A few years back, Robert Kennedy wrote some words about his own father and they expressed the way we in his family feel about him. He said of what his father meant to him: "What it really all adds up to is love--not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order, encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it.
"Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention. There were people who were poor and who needed help. And we have a responsibility to them and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off."
This is what Robert Kennedy was given. What he leaves us is what he said, what he did and what he stood for. A speech he made to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in I 966 sums it up the best, and I would read it now:
"There is a discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; and millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich; and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere.
"These are differing evils, but they are common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility toward the sufferings of our fellows.
"But we can perhaps remember--even if only for a time -- that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek--as we do--nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.
"Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men. And surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.
"Our answer is to rely on youth--not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. They cannot be moved by those who cling to a present that is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger that come with even the most peaceful progress. It is a revolutionary world we live in; and this generation at home and around the world, has had thrust upon it a greater burden of responsibility than any generation that has ever lived.
"Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills. Yet many of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the thirty-two-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal.
"These men moved the world, and so can we all. 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. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. 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 that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
"Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.
"For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. 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.
"Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live."
This is the way he lived. My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply 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.
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:
Some men see things as they are and say why.
I dream things that never were and say why not
In his brief but extraordinary political career, the 42-year-old, Massachusetts-born Robert Francis Kennedy was Attorney General of the United States under two Presidents and Senator from New York. In those high offices he exerted an enormous influence on the nation's domestic and foreign affairs, first as the closest confidant of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and then, after Mr. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, as the immediate heir to his New Frontier policies.
The Kennedy name, which John had made magical, devolved on Robert, enabling him to win a Senate seat from a state in which he had little or no previous association. The Kennedy aura also permitted him to campaign this year for the Democratic Presidential nomination and to gain important victories in the preference primaries. Wherever he went he drew crowds by evoking, through his Boston accent, his gestures and his physical appearance, a remarkable and nostalgic likeness to his elder brother.
At the same time Mr. Kennedy called forth sharply opposed evaluations of himself. For those who found him charming, brilliant and sincerely devoted to the welfare of his country there were others who vehemently asserted that he was calculating, overly ambitious and ruthless.
Those who praised him regarded his candidacy for his party's Presidential nomination this year as proof of his selflessness. They quoted with approval his announcement on March 16, in which he said:
"I do not run for the Presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new policies. I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I'm obliged to do all I can."
On the other hand, those who questioned his motives pointed out that his candidacy was posed only four days after the New Hampshire primary, in which Senator Eugene J. McCarthy had demonstrated the political vulnerability of President Johnson. Further, Mr. Kennedy's critics said, he had declared only as recently as January 30:
"I have told friends and supporters who are urging me to run that I would not oppose President Johnson under any foreseeable circumstances."
Sure He'd Do 'the Right Thing'
Mr. Kennedy's partisans tended to ignore his inconsistencies or to belittle them. And even many voters who expressed reservations about him were certain that, in public office, he would do "the right thing." This belief was underlined, especially among Negroes and the poor, because of the earnestness with which he pleaded their cause.
Describing the reaction of one ghetto throng in California, Tom Wicker wrote in The New York Times of June 2:
"The crowds surge in alarmingly, children leap and shriek and grown men risk the wheels of Kennedy's car just to pound his arm or grasp his hand. Moving through the sleazy back streets of Oakland, he repeatedly stopped traffic; for six blocks along East 14th Street, his car could barely creep along."
Contrasting with such frenzied warmth was what Fortune magazine called last March "the implacable hostility toward him in the business community." The magazine quoted one Dallas businessman, a leading Democrat, as saying:
"I had great respect for his brother Jack, but I would not vote for Bobby."
The business community, according to Fortune, condemned Mr. Kennedy as immature and irresponsible. Business, it was said, was disquieted "by the reputation for radicalism that he has developed."
To criticism he could respond with asperity or angry chilliness. To the fervor and adulation of his supporters he seemed curiously aloof, exhibiting neither pleasure nor fright. Those close to Mr. Kennedy noticed that his eyes rarely sparkled, but, instead, were sad and withdrawn and that his manner, despite a grin, was unemotional.
Mr. Kennedy's campaign speeches (as well as those he delivered in the Senate) were, for the most part, devoid of oratorical fire and flourish. He spoke in an even baritone; there were no crescendos and little outward expansiveness. His only gestures were to chop the air with his right hand for emphasis or to brush back his shaggy forelock when it slipped down over his forehead.
His campaign humor was self-deprecating, an effort to divert criticism to his account. For example, he recently asked a rally in Fort Wayne, Indiana, whether the city would vote for him. Otherwise, he went on, he and Ethel and all of their children would have to go on relief. "It'll be less expensive," he continued, deadpan, "just to send us to the White House. We'll arrange it so all 10 kids won't be there at once, and we won't need to expand the place. I'll send some of them away to school -- and I'll make one of them Attorney General."
Mr. Kennedy was an indefatigable campaigner, able to put in a 16-hour day of stress and tension and then sleep briefly before going through another equally strenuous day. Indeed, he seldom seemed to relax, whether he was campaigning or not, for he played with as much concentration as he worked. He was, for instance, a vigorous touch football participant, a hardy skier, a pace-setting mountain climber and a swimmer who did not mind plunging into the cold Pacific surf on an Oregon beach, an exploit few in that state ever attempted.
Mr. Kennedy was so constantly in motion that he prompted some observers to say that he fled introspection, that he did not sit down with himself and figure out what he truly was and what he wanted to achieve. Commenting on this public and private extroversion in "The Heir Apparent," William V. Shannon wrote in 1967:
"In his compulsive athleticism, his reckless risk-taking, his aggressiveness, he seems to be driven by something not accounted for by the realities which engage him and not compatible with the high seriousness of his public ambitions."
'You Have to Struggle'
Mr. Kennedy was, of course, aware of what was said about him, for he not only read omnivorously but he also employed a large staff of experts and advisers to brief and counsel him. He often conceded that he was aggressive, explaining semi humorously:
"I was the seventh of nine children. And when you come from that far down, you have to struggle to survive."
Robert Kennedy was born Nov. 20, 1925, in Brookline, Massachusetts, a fashionable suburb of Boston, the son of Joseph and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. His father, the son of poor South Boston parents, was then already amassing a fortune in the stock market and associated speculative enterprises.
Home only at intervals (the family moved in 1926 to Riverdale and then to Bronxville, N.Y.), he left the day-to-day management of the family to his capable wife, who was the daughter of John F. (Honey Fitz) Fitzgerald, who served three terms in the House of Representatives and was Mayor of Boston.
When Robert was born, his brother Joseph Jr. was 10 and John was 8. (Edward was born in 1932.) Thus Robert passed his early years as the little brother, with two older brothers and five young sisters -- Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia and Jean. "He was the smallest and thinnest, and we feared he might grow up puny and girlish," his mother recalled, adding: "We soon realized there was no fear of that."
Not only were Robert's sisters tomboyish, but he was also prodded to competitiveness by his father and by Joseph Jr., who served as a surrogate father to his siblings.
"Joe taught me to sail, to swim, to play football and baseball," he remembered. Moreover, Robert's father laid down strict rules of conduct: Never take second best; when the going gets tough, the tough get going; passivity is intolerable.
Although Robert as a youth was overshadowed by his older brothers, he displayed grim determination to succeed. A classmate at Milton Academy, where he prepared for Harvard, said: "It was much tougher in school for him than the others -- socially, in football, with studies." Nonetheless, Robert kept up.
He was a Harvard sophomore when Joseph Jr., on whom the family had pinned its political hopes, was killed in a Navy plane over the English Channel in 1944. Deeply affected, Robert traveled to Washington on his own several months later and persuaded Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal to assign him as a seaman to a destroyer newly named for his brother.
Robert spent the remainder of the war in the Caribbean, returning to Harvard in 1946. There his tenacity gained him a place as end on the football team, although he weighed only 160 pounds and stood 5 feet 9 inches tall. After graduation in 1948, he went to law school at the University of Virginia, where he took his degree in 1951.
That same year, after admission to the Massachusetts bar, he joined the criminal division of the Department of Justice in Washington and spent two years prosecuting a somewhat dreary succession of graft and income tax evasion cases without notable splash.
Resigned to Run Campaign.
He resigned in 1952 to manage the campaign of his brother John for United States Senator from Massachusetts. The most impressive features of that race were the Kennedy organization's painstaking attention to detail and the vast amount of money it spent. Both later became hallmarks of Robert Kennedy's campaign methods.
Mr. Kennedy's first (and ultimately most controversial) venture into the public limelight occurred in 1953, when he was named one of 15 assistant counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
His immediate superior was Roy M. Cohn, the group's chief counsel. Above them both was Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, whose name was soon attached to the committee. It rapidly acquired a malodorous reputation among liberals, intellectuals and civil libertarians for its chivvying of witnesses in its investigations of asserted Communist conspiracies and plots in the Government. Robert had obtained his job through his father, who had contributed money to Senator McCarthy's anti-Communist campaign. He got along well with the Senator, a circumstance that plagued Mr. Kennedy when he became, years later, a professing liberal.
After a dispute with Mr. Cohn over the committee staff, Mr. Kennedy resigned his post in mid-1953, but rejoined it in February, 1954, as counsel to the Democratic minority. The following year -- after the Army-McCarthy hearings -- he succeeded Mr. Cohn as chief counsel and staff director when Senator John L. McClellan, Democrat of Arkansas, became committee chairman. In that post he pursued investigations into alleged Communist influence and helped develop some of the conflict-of-interest cases involving personalities in the Eisenhower Administration. Senator McClellan liked him, for he was a persistent questioner of witnesses and a resolute investigator.
One result was that the Senator chose Mr. Kennedy as chief counsel of the Senate Select committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field when it was organized in January, 1957. Mr. Kennedy immediately began a headline-making inquiry into the affairs of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, then under the presidency of Dave Beck. Beck was later imprisoned for filing false income tax returns.
Accused of Anti labor Views
Mr. Kennedy's sharp questioning of Beck before the Senate Rackets Committee, as the McClellan group was generally known, drew down on him the accusation that he was anti labor at worst and unsympathetic to the working man at best. This charge was compounded when he investigated James R. Hoffa, Beck's successor, in 1958.
Hoffa, who was eventually convicted and jailed for jury tampering and misuse of union funds, disliked Mr. Kennedy, calling him "a young, dim-witted, curly-headed smart-aleck" and "a ruthless monster." Calm and polite as the committee's counsel, Mr. Kennedy nevertheless did not conceal his disdain for Hoffa. His reaction to an involved and obscure answer was often a sarcastic and disbelieving: "Oh."
Later, when he was Attorney General, Mr. Kennedy continued his investigation of the 1,700,000-member teamsters union, causing Hoffa to charge that he was engaged in vendetta. Officials of other unions were also prosecuted by Mr. Kennedy, generating a coolness of organized labor toward him that was still evident when he was campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1968. The attitude of the trade union hierarchy, however, did not permeate to the rank and file, who generally voted for him.
Mr. Kennedy left the rackets committee in 1959 to manage his brother's campaign for the Presidency. Describing the primary races of 1960, Lawrence J. Quirk, in "Robert Francis Kennedy," wrote:
"Bobby kept his card file constantly replenished with information on every local leader, every county VIP, every 'bit' player in every key town. And he bore down most heavily on the states where the primary battles looked hottest: New Hampshire, Indiana, West Virginia and Wisconsin (already marked for the kill), Oregon and Nebraska.
"But Bobby's strong-arm methods were not just limited to the states where the primaries were crucial. Gov. [Michael] Di Salle of Ohio, who had hoped to run as a favorite-son candidate, was soon finding himself unremittingly pressured by Bobby to endorse Jack Kennedy. The two little fighting words 'or else' hung in the air. With a primary fight against the Kennedy's -- a fight he stood to lose - a distinct possibility, Di Salle finally capitulated. 'The Kennedy's play rough and they play for keeps,' he later said."
As his brother's vizier, Robert Kennedy never bothered to hide his political muscle in 1960. Answering one politician's complaint, he said blandly:
"I'm not running a popularity contest. It doesn't matter if they [the politicians] like me or not. Jack can be nice to them. I don't try to antagonize people but somebody has to be able to say no. If people are not getting off their behinds and working enough, how do you say that nicely? Every time you make a decision in this business you make somebody mad."
In the election campaign that followed, against Richard M. Nixon, the Republican candidate, Mr. Kennedy proved as drivingly perfectionist as he had been during the primary races. He traveled the country, tightening up the party organization, settling squabbles and dismissing incompetents. He even silenced Frank Sinatra, the singer, and Walter Reuther, head of the United Auto Workers, whom he considered liabilities to his brother.
In addition to these tasks, Mr. Kennedy advised his brother on tactics. He was also responsible, according to Mr. Quirk's book, for John Kennedy's intervention in the Martin Luther King case. As Mr. Quirk related it, this is what happened:
"The Rev. Martin Luther King was arrested for staging a sit-in at a department store in Atlanta, and was forthwith sentenced to four months of hard labor in a Georgia penitentiary. This event occurred a scant week before the election.
Prompted Call to Mrs. King
"Bobby saw to it that J.F.K. called Mrs. King to offer comfort. Then Bobby called the judge who had sentenced Dr. King. Shortly afterward, the Negro leader was freed on bail, and a member of the King family declared, 'I've got a suitcase of votes, and I'm going to take them to Mr. Kennedy and dump them in his lap.'"
After John Kennedy defeated Mr. Nixon -- the popular vote margin was 119,000 out of 68 million cast -- he appointed his brother Attorney General. Robert Kennedy was reluctant at first, saying, "Everything I do will rub off on the President." He was also sensitive to the likely charge that the appointment was nepotic.
John Kennedy, however, wanted his brother in the Cabinet as an absolutely loyal and dependable confidant. In public, when criticism of the appointment mounted, the President explained his choice almost flippantly. "I can't see that it's wrong to give him a little legal experience before he goes out to practice law," he said.
Mr. Kennedy's term as Attorney General touched many sensitive areas of the nation's life-- civil rights, immigration, crime, labor legislation, defense of the poor, pardons, economic monopoly, juvenile delinquency and the Federal judiciary.
In the opinion of his staff -- and he recruited a brilliant group that included Byron R. White, now a Supreme Court justice, and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, now Deputy Secretary of State -- Mr. Kennedy was imaginative and inspiring. His relationship with J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was reportedly more formal than cordial after Mr. Kennedy made it known that he was Mr. Hoover's superior in fact as well as in theory.
Conspicuously active in civil rights, Mr. Kennedy, among other achievements, exerted the Federal force that permitted James H. Meredith, a black student, to enroll in the University of Mississippi in 1962.
And owing to his relationship with the President, he had a hand in virtually every phase of the Administration. "Call Bobby, get together with him and come back with an idea on this," was a frequent White House order
In foreign affairs, he was an especially close adviser. He investigated the Central Intelligence Agency after the Cuban Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961. In the Cuban missile crisis the next year he opposed a pre-emptive air strike on Cuba and advocated the policy of restrained toughness that allowed the Soviet Union to retreat gracefully.
Mr. Kennedy was lunching at his home in McLean, Va., on November 22, 1963, when he was informed of his brother's assassination in Dallas. Stunned, his shoulders drooping, his face solemn, he was at the airport when the Presidential plane landed in Washington with the President's body, his widow, Jacqueline, and the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson. During the public rites that preceded the funeral, he never left his sister-in-law's side. In the long, slow procession from the White House to St. Matthew's Cathedral, he and his brother Edward, a Senator from Massachusetts, walked on either side of her. And at Arlington National Cemetery, both brothers helped her light an eternal flame over the grace.
Plunged Into Deep Grief
The assassination plunged Mr. Kennedy into a deep grief that amounted virtually to melancholy. His face was a mask; sadness enveloped his eyes; he seemed to have shrunk physically, and he often walked alone, his hands dug into his jacket pockets. And for the remainder of his life he lived with thoughts of his dead brother never far from the surface of his mind. When Dr. King was assassinated earlier this year, Mr. Kennedy was speaking at a political rally. Almost by reflex action he offered the family his condolences and remarked that he could understand their feeling of sudden loss because he himself had undergone a similar shock over his brother.
When his lassitude lifted, he set out to re-plan his political life. For a time in 1964 there was speculation that he might be President Johnson's running mate that fall. Whatever hopes he had, however, were dispelled when Mr. Johnson ruled out all Cabinet members as Vice- Presidential material. Displeased, Mr. Kennedy resigned to run for the Senate from New York; and, establishing residence, he put into operation the political structure he had erected for his brother in 1960 and won the nomination without difficulty.
His opponent was Senator Kenneth B. Keating, the incumbent Republican, who sought to picture Mr. Kennedy as a grasping carpetbagger. "Isn't the basic question 'Who can best represent the State of New York?'" Mr. Kennedy retorted. And to the charge of being sinister, he replied:
"I like to be involved in politics. I like to be involved in government. I've been in politics all my life. I would like to remain in government. I don't think that's so sinister."
He defeated Mr. Keating by 800,000 votes in a campaign that demonstrated the visceral appeal he had for voters. In the Senate (and a national figure in his own right) he forged a position slightly to the left of Mr. Johnson on the problems of the poor and the cities. He also sought to develop moderately "dovish" views on the war in Vietnam, but his opposition to Mr. Johnson on this issue always remained cautious.
It was so restrained, indeed, that he held back from contesting for the Presidential nomination of 1968 until after the New Hampshire primary on March 12 showed the extent of voter disaffection with the war. Thereafter, however, he fought keenly for the nomination, winning major primaries in Indiana, Nebraska and California.
Campaigning with him was his wife, the former Miss Ethel Skakel of Greenwich, Connecticut, to whom he was married in 1950. Mrs. Kennedy is expecting their 11th child in January.
Their other children are Kathleen Harrington, 16; Joseph Patrick, 15; Robert Francis, 15; David Anthony, 12; Mary Courtney, 11; Michael Lemoyne, 10; Mary Kerry, 6; Christopher George, 4; Matthew Maxwell, 3, and Douglas Harriman 14 months.
Robert F. Kennedy,
brother of President John F. Kennedy, former attorney general, senator and
presidential candidate, was shot on June 5, 1968, and died the next morning.
The funeral Mass for Senator Kennedy took place at St. Patrick's Cathedral,
New York City, on Saturday June 8, 1968. The remains were then transported
upon a slow-moving train to Washington, D.C., via Newark and Camden, N.J.;
Philadelphia, Pa.; and Baltimore, Md. The railway system stopped all
northbound traffic between Washington, D.C., and New York, and many people
gathered along the route to pay tribute to Senator Kennedy.
The long transport delayed the arrival at Union Station until 9:10 p.m., and cemetery officials quickly changed the funeral plans to accommodate an evening interment. Floodlights were placed around the open grave and service members provided 1,500 candles which were distributed to the mourners.
The casket was borne from the train by 13 pallbearers, including former astronaut John Glenn, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, family friend General Maxwell Taylor, Robert's eldest son Joe, and his brother Senator Edward Kennedy.
The procession stopped once during the drive to Arlington National Cemetery at the Lincoln Memorial where the Marine Corps Band played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." The funeral motorcade arrived at the cemetery at 10:30 p.m.
The brief grave-side service was conducted by Terence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of New York. Afterward the folded flag was presented to Ethel and Joe Kennedy on behalf of the United States by John Glenn.
In 1971 a more-elaborate gravesite was completed, at the request of the Kennedy family, by architect I.M. Pei (who also designed the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art). The new gravesite retains the simple, white Christian cross of the earlier site, and adds a granite plaza (like JFK's gravesite which adjoins it) and two inscriptions from Senator Kennedy's most notable addresses.
Senator Robert Kennedy's funeral is the only one ever to take place at night at Arlington National Cemetery.