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Robert F. Kennedy
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Robert F. Kennedy was a man of passionate conviction,
carrying a message of change, and for the forlorn and
dispossessed of America...a message of hope.

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

robert kennedy weddingRobert Francis Kennedy was born on November 20, 1925, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the seventh child  of Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy. He attended Milton Academy and enrolled in Harvard University. Robert left Harvard to enlist in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war he completed his degree, then earned a law degree from the University of Virginia.

Kennedy's formal education was complimented by the Kennedy family dinner table, where his parents involved their children in discussions of history and current affairs. "I can hardly remember a mealtime," Robert Kennedy said, "when the conversation was not dominated by what Franklin D. Roosevelt was doing or what was happening in the world."

On June 17, 1950, Robert Kennedy married Ethel Skakel of Greenwich, Connecticut, daughter of Ann Brannack Skakel and George Skakel. Robert and Ethel Kennedy later had eleven children: Kathleen, Joseph, Robert Jr., David, Courtney, Michael, Kerry, Christopher, Max, Doug and Rory. Rory, was born after RFK's death. His son Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr. was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts from 1987-1999. Eldest daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townshend was lieutenant governor of Maryland from 1995-2003. Son David died of a drug overdose in 1984. Son Michael was killed in a skiing accident in 1997.  Robert Kennedy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near the graves of John F. Kennedy and former First Lady Jackie Kennedy.

Biographical video

In 1952, Robert Kennedy made his political debut as manager of his older brother John's successful campaign for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. In 1960 RFK managed his brother John's presidential campaign. After the election, Robert was appointed Attorney General in President Kennedy's Cabinet.  RFK first gained national prominence as chief counsel (1955–57) of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee in its investigation of Teamster Union executives David Beck and James Hoffa. Attorney General Kennedy focused on organized crime and convictions against organized crime figures rose by 800%. He was committed to the African Americans' right to vote, receive an equal education, and use public accommodations. He demonstrated his commitment to civil rights during a 1961 speech at the University of Georgia Law School:

"We will not stand by or be aloof. We will move. I happen to believe that the 1954 [Supreme Court school desegregation] decision was right. But my belief does not matter. It is the law. Some of you may believe the decision was wrong. That does not matter. It is the law."

In September 1962, African American student James Meredith enrolled at the University of Mississippi. The riot as a result of Meredith's registration at "Ole Miss" left two dead and hundreds injured. RFK sent U.S. Marshals and troops to Oxford, Mississippi to enforce a Federal court order admitting the first  African American student to the University of Mississippi. Robert Kennedy considered the right to vote as the key to racial justice and collaborated with President Kennedy when he proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed after President Kennedy was slain on November 22, 1963.

Robert Kennedy was not only President Kennedy's Attorney General, he was also his closest advisor and confidant. Therefore, Attorney General Kennedy played a significant role in several critical foreign policy decisions. During the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert helped develop the Kennedy Administration's strategy to blockade Cuba instead of taking military action that could have led to nuclear war and then negotiated with the Soviet Union on removal of the weapons.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy

Soon after President Kennedy's death, Robert Kennedy resigned as Attorney General and, in 1964, ran successfully for the United States Senate from New York.

As New York's Senator, he introduced several projects in the state, including assistance to underprivileged children and students with disabilities. Kennedy also established the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation to improve living conditions and employment opportunities in economically depressed areas of Brooklyn. The program remains a model for communities all across the nation.

RFK addressed the needs of the poor, the young, racial minorities and Native Americans. He focused the American people to consider the plight of the poor by going into urban ghettos, Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta and migrant workers' camps.

Robert Kennedy was committed to the advancement of human rights worldwide. He traveled to Eastern Europe, Latin America and South Africa to expound upon his belief that all people should have a basic right to participate or criticize their government without fear.

About one month before he was killed, when asked by David Frost how his obituary should read, Robert Kennedy responded:

robert Kennedy in MississippiSomething about the fact that I made some contribution to either my country, or those who were less well off. I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I'd like to feel that I'd done something to lessen that suffering.

"There are children in the Mississippi Delta whose bellies are swollen with hunger ... Many of them cannot go to school because they have no clothes or shoes. These conditions are not confined to rural Mississippi. They exist in dark tenements in Washington, D.C., within sight of the Capitol, in Harlem, in South Side Chicago, in Watts. There are children in each of these areas who have never been to school, never seen a doctor or a dentist. There are children who have never heard conversation in their homes, never read or even seen a book." - RFK

He also believed that those who stand against injustice exhibit the highest form of courage.

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal," he said in a 1966 to South African students, "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."

 

A RFK campaign button.On March 18, 1968, Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. He stated:

"I do not run for the Presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new policies. I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I'm obliged to do all I can."
Listen to the Robert Kennedy audio here.

Kennedy challenged the American people encouraging them to be active in making a difference in society. He strove to bridge the great divides in American life - race, economics, and age. His 1968 campaign brought hope and challenge to an American people troubled by discontent and violence at home and a war in Vietnam.

Robert Francis Kennedy was shot on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California shortly after claiming victory in that state's crucial Democratic primary. He died in the early hours of June 6, 1968 at the age of 42.

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