Robert F. Kennedy
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Robert Kennedy Campaigning for hope
RFK in Marion, Iowa
Photo Credit: Bill Eppridge. Life
Picture Collection, Copyright © Time, Inc.


RFK asked Americans to believe that as individuals they could make a difference in the world.


Bobby Kennedy - The Ripple of Hope

The assassination of Robert Kennedy on June 5, 1968, has never attracted the same level of public fascination and passion as the 1963 assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. But, the passing of Bobby, as many affectionately called him, may have impacted our country in a more significant manner.

Robert Kennedy was unique in American politics; he reached out to the poor and disenfranchised, he reached out to working class whites, he reached out to inner city blacks, he reached out to the migrant worker - the very classes of people most politicians of that time ignored.

He came from a place of privilege and money, yet passionately spoke for the victimized and the oppressed. Robert Kennedy embodied an attitude and idealism that is rare for any generation.

By leading with an inspiring call to action he asked the American people of that time to support racial and educational equality, to accept environmental responsibility and to negotiate for peace in a war ravaged world. RFK asked Americans to believe that as individuals they could make a difference in the world.

Bobby understood that America's real greatness came from empowering its citizens through equal opportunities to secure  a better life, but Robert Kennedy's vision for a better tomorrow was not limited to the United States. He went to Poland and Latin America to tell them that their dream of freedom was obtainable, and when South Africans suffered the tyranny of apartheid, RFK was there to say:

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. - RFK

Extra Info

ABC News

Remembering Robert Kennedy: ABC News Photos, Some Never Published

A Time it Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties Hardcover – June 1, 2008 (Amazon)

June 5, 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of Sen. Kennedy's assassination.
(Bill Eppridge/LIFE/Time Inc.)



Bobby Kennedy, 40 years later

Thu Jun 5, 2:11 AM ET

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Forty years ago, on June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was brimming with the confidence of a young, charismatic and liberal political star.

He had just won the California Democratic primary, giving him a strong chance to win the party's presidential nomination, rising out of the shadow of his brother John F. Kennedy, the president murdered less than five years before. And in a split second, its was all over: a deranged Palestinian shot him dead in a Los Angeles hotel as he reveled in his victory.

The assassination of Bobby Kennedy plunged the United States into deep trauma.

It came in the wake of the devastating Tet offensive against US and South Vietnamese troops in Vietnam, which showed the US was not winning the war and forced then-president Lyndon Johnson, also a Democrat, to concede that he was too weak to seek the White House in that November's election. And it followed by two months the April 4 assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee, which sparked riots across the country.

Johnson's decision to bow out from the race opened the door to Kennedy to jump in the battle against liberal anti-war hero, senator Eugene McCarthy, and Johnson's more conservative vice president Hubert Humphrey that March. But Kennedy, who also took a stance against the increasingly unpopular war, had the advantage of youth -- he was just 42, his powerful name, his experience as attorney general under his brother, and then nearly four years as senator from New York.

The primary in California, the country's most populous state, was key, and Kennedy came out of it with a big advance, putting him ahead of McCarthy and with the possibility of catching up with Humphrey. But what for many was the second Kennedy "dream" was again cut short. As he entered the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel to thank supporters, Sirhan Sirhan pulled out a pistol and at close range shot Bobby several times, including once in the head.

Kennedy died the next day, leaving behind wife Ethel, 10 children and an 11th soon to be born, and a clan and the nation in shock at yet another Kennedy tragedy.

Bill Eppridge Photo
Photo Credit: Bill Eppridge. The Life Picture Collection, copyright © Time, Inc.

The photograph of a young assistant chef, holding up the candidate's bloodied head as he lay on the floor, was seen around the world.

Boris Yaro, then working for the Los Angeles Times, recalled in 1998 that he went not on assignment but as a fan to take pictures. "To me, Bobby represented what was left of the Camelot era of American politics, and I wanted him to win.

"I wanted a picture of him for my wall -- something that said a new era was aborning." But as his victory became apparent, suddenly "there were a couple of explosions that seemed to light up the entire room," Yaro recalled.

"The crowd around Bobby parted and there was a man with a contorted face and a revolver, and shots were still being fired."

"I froze. 'No,' I said to myself. 'Not again. Not another Kennedy.'"

In the struggle to subdue Sirhan, Yaro himself grabbed at the gun before someone else took it away. He took his pictures and went back to the newspaper.

"After all the questions were over in the newsroom, I walked back to my cubbyhole darkroom in the photo department and, out of sight of everybody, I cried hot tears of anger.

"I cried for me and you and all the world. Bobby would cling to life for another day, but the truth was already there: Camelot was lost."

Forty years later, the desire for another "Camelot" has filled supporters of Illinois Senator Barack Obama, likened to the Kennedy brothers by some from the Massachusetts clan themselves. In January both John F. Kennedy's brother Senator Edward Kennedy and the slain president's daughter Caroline suggested Obama was his spiritual heir. But also, in what came to be seen as an ugly comparison, Obama's now-vanquished rival Hillary Clinton in May made reference to their close-quarters battle and the fact that the 1968 race changed radically when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. The reference provoked outrage that Clinton was suggesting something nefarious, and she quickly apologized.

Sirhan, a Christian-born Palestinian who first said he killed Kennedy over his support for Israel, but whose sanity was later questioned, was given a life sentence in a California prison, where he remains today.

Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, book by David Talbot:

Someone Would Have Talked

"Brothers" begins on the shattering afternoon of November 22, 1963, as a grief-stricken Robert Kennedy urgently demands answers about the assassination of his brother. Bobby's suspicions immediately focus on the nest of CIA spies, gangsters, and Cuban exiles that had long been plotting a violent regime change in Cuba.

"Brothers then shifts back in time, revealing the shadowy conflicts that tore apart the Kennedy administration, pitting the young president and his even younger brother against their own national security apparatus. The tensions within the Kennedy administration were heading for an explosive climax, when a burst of gunfire in a sunny Dallas plaza terminated John F. Kennedy's presidency." "Brothers" Website

Larry Hancock's book SOMEONE WOULD HAVE TALKED demonstrates how this nest - frustrated with the highly secret Kennedy outreach to Castro - instigated and orchestrated JFK's murder in Dallas. RFK intuitively had the right answer, its just taken 40 plus years to find and document what he knew in his gut on that Friday afternoon. buy the book


Robert Kennedy with children

Robert Kennedy Surrounded By Children
Attorney General Robert Kennedy walks down a street in New York, surrounded by children. He is visiting a summer reading program in Harlem.

Image: © Bettmann/CORBIS
Collection: Bettmann
Date Photographed: August 14, 1963

American Civil Rights Movement

In the 1960s racial segregation prevented black Americans from educational opportunities, economic opportunities, from voting. Sadly, black Americans who fought against racial inequality  were  often victims of violence. 

As Attorney General, Robert Kennedy actively enforced civil right laws. His stance on civil rights became evident on May 6, 1961, when he traveled to the University of Georgia to deliver one of his first major talks as Attorney General.  In that speech, RFK compared the domestic struggle for civil rights to the Free World's fight against communism.

We must recognize the full human equality of all our people - before God, before the law, and in the councils of government. We must do this not because it is economically advantageous - although it is; not because the laws of God and man command it - although they do command it; not because people in other lands wish it so. We must do it for the single and fundamental reason that it is the right thing to do. - RFK

Robert Kennedy was committed to the rights of African Americans to vote, and attend school and in 1962 sent US Marshals to Oxford, Mississippi to enforce a Federal Court Order admitting the first black student, James Meredith, to enter the University of Mississippi. Read More

Robert Kennedy

Attorney General Robert Kennedy and his brother President John Kennedy, photographed at the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Photo Credit: JFK Library

The Missile CrisisRobert Kennedy had a major role in the Missile Crisis. He acted as a meeting facilitator and as an unquestioned confidante to President Kennedy. Because the President could not be present at all the EX-COMM meetings, he assigned Robert Kennedy the task of facilitating the discussions. As such, Bobby Kennedy proved an excellent leader by guiding the discussions and asking complex questions. Robert Kennedy quickly exhibited his ability to analyze the situation and recognize how decisions would impact the future of the world.

Robert Kennedy's second major contribution was his secret contact with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. Privately, RFK was able to convey President Kennedy's position and generate a secret deal. In Khrushchev's memoirs there is a section devoted to the crisis and Robert Kennedy's communications with Ambassador Dobrynin.

I said President Kennedy wished to have peaceful relations between our two countries. He wished to resolve the problems that confronted us in Europe and Southeast Asia. He wished to move forward on the control of nuclear weapons. However, we could make progress on these matters only when the crisis was behind us. Time was running out. We had only a few more hours—we needed an answer immediately from the Soviet Union. I said we must have it the next day.
[Robert F. Kennedy, Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: New American Library, 1969), 107-109.]

Read Dobrynin's cable to Khrushchev dated October 27, 1962 is a part of JFK Lancer Publications & Productions.