I was just 14 when Robert Kennedy died, so my reverence for him came much later.
It began with journalist, Jack Newfield’s 1998 documentary film…Robert F. Kennedy: A Memoir, taken from his book of the same name.
It begins with his funeral train reminiscent of Lincoln’s, mourners lining the tracks waving and weeping, the majority African Americans since, like Abe, Bobby was champion to people of color.
It saddens me when he’s only remembered for, what’s been coined, his ruthlessness as attorney general and head henchman for his brother John, during his short time as president.
They say a leopard doesn’t change its spots, but in RFK’s case, they certainly softened.
Bobby blamed himself for his brother’s death never really recovering from the loss. It’s poignantly realized in the speech he gave in April, 1968, on the back of a flatbed truck in Indianapolis, the day Martin Luther King was shot and killed in Memphis.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with — be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.
His pain as he spoke splattered the crowd so moved, resulting in being the only major U.S. city free of rioting. It was the first time he ever publicly spoke of his brother’s assassination.
When he ran for president for a brief, heartfelt 82 days in 1968, he was looked upon as our last great hope by many.
After he was shot, hooked up to machines showing no signs of life, his heart kept furiously beating right to the end. Makes one think of Joan of Arc where lore has it, her heart refused to burn, confirming those tried and true, can never be silenced.
There’s not a time entering Saint Patrick’s Cathedral that I don’t think of his funeral mass, his young brother Ted not yet sullied by Chappaquidick, speaking of his older brother with such love, longing and respect.
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.
Robert Frances Kennedy died fifty years ago today, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California.
November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968