Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I Dream of Things...

Robert Kennedy was the never supposed to be President. At least he never had that lofty a goal in mind growing up. His big brother Joe was supposed to be the one who carried the Kennedy name into the national consciousness. Joe however never made it out of WWII. His big brother John was then trust into that position and as a war hero and Pulitzer prize winner he carried the mantle well. John became a Senator in a race in which Bobby was his campaign manager. When John became President (in another campaign which was run by Bobby), he named his 34 year old brother as his Attorney General.

The RFK that is remembered today is not the RFK who played such a crucial role in the Kennedy administration. The RFK that people remember is the one who became a different man once his brother was assassinated. He was viewed as ruthless and his brother's attack dog during those Camelot years. He authorized wiretaps on Martin Luther King, Jr., he and his brother were slow to the cause of civil rights and basically had to be cornered before they took appropriate action. He fought against appointing Thurgood Marshall to a Circuit Judge position because of fear of political reprisals from southerners.

It is only after he leaves the White House and becomes a Senator from New York that he transforms into the figure that most people are familiar with today. The compassionate Bobby, the unifying Bobby, the underdog's champion Bobby. His commitment to public service had been instilled in him by his father, but it never had the purpose that it did after he was allowed to become his own man. His trips to the poorest parts of the country changed him. It gave his sense of public service a direction.

It has been 40 years since that awful night in Los Angeles. We can only imagine how different this country might have been if RFK had not been killed that night. There is still a question as to whether he would have even gotten the nomination of the Democratic Party (since he lagged far behind Hubert Humphrey in delegates), but it is easy to imagine that he would have been a very important figure even without the presidency. Many in the press have attempted to make a link between Barack Obama and John Kennedy, but I believe the more accurate comparison would be between Obama and the Bobby Kennedy who ran for President in 1968. I'll leave you with a quote from that fateful night in '68 that reminds us of what we lost and hopefully what we have to look forward to.

"I think we can end the divisions within the United States. What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis. And that what has been going on with the United States over the period of that last three years, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, the divisions- whether it's between blacks and whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups, or in the war in Vietnam - that we can work together. We are a great country, and unselfish country and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running."

1 comment:

Sandy Jimenez said...

The next president has the unenviable task of waking Americans up from the unconscious state they have been in since GW Bush took office. Americans have been slumbering and anesthetizing themselves against their fears and against the ugly truth with fake news, blind unthinking patriotism, feel-good state-sponsored rhetoric and irrelevant controversies while: the deficit sky rockets, the dollar drops in value against world currencies, fellow Americans sacrifice their lives in the Middle East, the constitution is made impotent, the doctrine of checks and balances is sidestepped, corporations move jobs overseas and use their influence to decide what taxes they should pay and what laws they should obey, and most disastrously, Americans have smiled idiotically and offered no contest while the Bush Administration lies to us all openly and stonewalls our journalists.
The next president doesn't so much need to unify the country, so much as get the country to agree on "reality".
The biggest disconnection and set of differences in our nation used to be race…
Now it’s the disconnection between those who refuse admit to reality, -preferring to hold on to their “beliefs” and “view of reality” versus those who are staring at the events of the past eight years with their eyes wide open.
Good luck.
-SJ