The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert F. Kennedy-David Halberstam
The assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) on June 5, 1968 shattered dreams of second Kennedy administration and a new direction for America. His death brought back memories of Dallas in November, 1963 and the violent manner in which he died was similar to the deaths of his brother John, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. During his campaign, his safety was always of the utmost concern. Kennedy never gave into the fear that gripped those around him and believed himself to be the candidate of the people. From his days as a young attorney general to the candidate that had his eyes on the oval office, Kennedy had embarked on an odyssey which he never completed. That journey and transformation is reviewed here in this first hand account of the late Senator’s presidential campaign presented to us by the late David Halberstam (1934-2007). Halberstam was a noted journalist and historian and followed Kennedy on the campaign trial.
For many years following JFK’s death, Robert of RFK for short, had lived in his brother’s shadow. Finding himself at a loss for words and thoughts after Dallas, it would take several years for the feisty ninth child of Joe and Rose Kennedy to regain his composure and throw his weight into the 1968 election for the presidency. During this time, Kennedy began to evolve both as a candidate and as a human being. His speeches are covered in the book as well as the non-stop efforts of RFK and his staff as they move from city to city in their efforts to recruit potential voters. Through Halberstam’s words, we are able to see the incredible transformation that occurs and the potential in the hands of Kennedy as he becomes the man of the people similar to his late older brother.
The true tragedies behind Kennedy’s death are the widow and ten children he left behind and the ended of a dream that could have possibly changed the course of history for the United States. Lyndon Johnson had removed himself from the election and Kennedy became the overwhelming democratic favorite after winning the California primary. The next stop was Chicago, the state that proved to be critical for Jack’s successful election in 1960. Fate however, changed of all of this and ended the journey Kennedy was on to reinvent himself as not only a candidate for president but one of the greatest figures in American history. In the aftermath of his death and even today, there are many what if questions that remain. We can only guess as to what he would think to have seen the election of Barack Obama and strides that minorities have taken in the United States. Poverty, discrimination, corruption and pollution would still enrage him and he would be at the front of all causes to remedy each one.
Kennedy once said that tragedy was a tool for the living to learn from, not by which to live. His prophetic words still have yet to be learned not only in America but across the world. The tragedy of his death and the deaths of others committed to social reform, equality and prosperity for all people, remind us that there are many afflictions that continue to plague society and those among us committed to wrongdoing and inducing heartache. But it takes those with hearts and minds as strong as Kennedy to stand up and demand reform. In his speeches, actions and writings, we can study the mind of one of America’s fallen angels, the night watchman who believed in getting things done by any means necessary. And by honoring his memory and following his lead we bring out the best in ourselves.