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.
On November 19, 2008, the Tri-Borough Bridge which links the boroughs of Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City, was renamed in the honor of the late Robert Francis Kennedy. At the time of his assassination, the presidential candidate was an active senator from the State of New York. June 6, 2016 will mark 48 years since his murder but his legacy and name continue to live on. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) had served as special assistant to President John F. Kennedy from 1961 to 1963 and was a long-time Kennedy family friend. In this extensive biography, he chronicles the life of the seventh child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy and former Attorney General. Dozens of books have been written about the Kennedy dynasty and “Camelot”, but Schlesinger’s account of Robert Kennedy’s life still stands as one of the best.
At times he was simply called “Bobby” and at others, a range of names applied to him by friends and enemies alike. Often described as cold, abrasive and having a hair-trigger temper, Kennedy’s sharp piercing eyes and steel cold manner earned him the reputation as one of Washington’s toughest characters. However, Schlesinger also reveals a man with a heart of good intention deeply committed to his Catholic faith and the husband and father of 11 children. His strong belief in family ties would help guide him as he served his older brother Jack during their time in the oval office. His protective nature and ability to get things done by any means necessary has resulted in him being described as both the night watchman and the avenging angel of the Kennedy family.
The events in Dallas shocked the world and left an entire nation in mourning. For Bobby, life would never be the same. But in 1968, he made the fateful decision to win the office his brother once occupied. His campaign and his transformation from persecutor of the mafia and Justice Department hawk into a champion of the people is one of the true shining moments of this book and his life. As a New York senator, his ability to reach the people of the ghettos and lower-income neighborhoods remains unmatched by any political candidate to this day. The once naive Attorney General had become a wiser and more engaged participant in the struggle for civil rights and the resolution of the raging Vietnam War. His win the California primary was a crucial victory in a campaign that showed enormous promise of success. Those who had felt betrayed after Dallas, found renewed hope that the direction of the country would once again change onto a path of positive reformation. June 5th changed that and the history of this nation. The 1960s saw the deaths of highly important figures and in the process spread fear throughout the nation. Sometimes I ask myself what if Kennedy had lived? He accurately predicted in 1961 that one day we would have a president of African-American heritage and was a strong supporter of Cesar Chavez and other minority groups in their quests for equality. I believe that if he had lived and were around to see the United States today he would be both satisfied and optimistic. His short life was filled with unforgettable events and he remains one of the most important people of the 20th century. For the full story of Kennedy’s life, Schlesinger’s book has no equal.