Tag Archives: 1968

Still miss the wisdom that RFK brought

I cannot help but feel wistful — and sad to this day — when I watch videos of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Indeed, it is the coarseness of today’s debate that makes wish we had another RFK on the horizon, waiting to grab our attention, speak to our better angels, prod us to think beyond our own self-interest.

This video comes from a 1967 interview that Bobby Kennedy had with “Face the Nation” questioners. His answers were full, complete and yes, a bit wordy at times. He spoke about the Vietnam War, which was Topic No. 1 on all the TV news talk shows in that era.

RFK waffled during this interview about whether he would be a candidate for president in 1968. He straddled the fence until the moment in the New Hampshire Democratic primary when Sen. Eugene McCarthy came shockingly close to upsetting President Johnson.

In came Bobby Kennedy. His campaign launched and in March 1968, LBJ shocked the nation by declaring he would “not seek” nor would he “accept my party’s nomination for another term as your president.”

I want to hear RFK’s wisdom again. Today’s political debate has devolved into insults, innuendo and an utter lack of compassion, particularly when it comes from the White House. I always have thought we are better than that. We deserve better than what we’re hearing in this era.

Then I look back at 1968, a terrible year for this country. The Vietnam War was killing hundreds of Americans each week. RFK sought an end to a conflict in which he — as attorney general during his brother’s administration — was a key architect.

RFK spoke to us at a level we haven’t heard since his death in June 1968 at the hands of an assassin. He told us stark, brutal truth about the bitterness and division that tore at our nation.

RFK had the “it” factor that is difficult to define. It is missing throughout the ranks of those who might seek to become the next president. It most certainly is nowhere to be found anywhere near the individual who currently holds that office.

It’s been more than 50 years since Robert Kennedy left this good Earth. I miss him every day. I miss him especially when I have to swallow today’s toxic mess that comprises political debate.

1968: It ended with profound discovery

Those of us of a certain age and older remember 1968.

As we were living through it many of us wondered if we could survive, literally, and wondered if the nation could endure the tumult that tore at its soul.

The year began with that terrible Tet Offensive in Vietnam, where we were fighting a war that killed thousands of American service personnel that year. Two iconic figures, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, died at the hands of assassins. The Democratic Party nominated a presidential candidate while thousands of people rioted in the streets outside.

Then in December of that terrible year, three men launched from Earth toward the moon, produced the image I have posted on this blog. They read from the Book of Genesis while orbiting the moon’s surface.

These men — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders — reminded us of the fragility of our existence and produced a never-before-seen image of our “good Earth,” as Apollo astronaut mission commander Borman described it in his Christmas message back home.

The Apollo 8 moon mission was more than just a competitive event between the United States and the Soviet Union. President Kennedy in 1961 had declared that we should “send a man to the moon and return him safely to the Earth” before the end of the 1960s. We would accomplish that mission in 1969, beating the Soviets in that race to the moon.

Before that, though, we had to send a space ship to the moon to orbit it and to return. Little could we have foreseen the symbolism embodied in that mission at the end of a terrible, tumultuous year.

It could not have ended more perfectly than it did just before Christmas 1968. It could not have been a more apt remedy to help restore some semblance of hope in the face of the mayhem that gripped the nation and the world.

The mission was, shall we say, one for the ages.

Those three men saw fit to read from the Holy Bible about God’s creation of the universe. The words from Genesis served to remind us that the Almighty was looking after us.

The year began and progressed through storm after storm.It ended with the image flashed around the world for the first time ever of Earth rising in the black sky all by itself.

It is our home. Turmoil and all.

Happy 93rd birthday, RFK

Robert F. Kennedy would have turned 93 today.

The late U.S. attorney general and U.S. senator from New York died 50 years ago at the hands of an assassin who shot him in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen after Bobby Kennedy had just won the California Democratic Party presidential primary.

He was 42 years of age when he died.

I have grieved ever since over that loss.

RFK was my first political hero, although I don’t like using the h-word when talking about politicians. They aren’t heroic figures any more than athletes are heroes.

I did admire him greatly.

But to think on this day that a young, ambitious politician died at an age that is younger than the younger of my two sons fills me with an odd sense of my own mortality.

We need a politician like RFK among us today. We are a nation divided by race, by social status, by partisan politics. Bobby Kennedy sought to elevate us above the divisions that ravaged the nation when he sought the presidency in 1968, that most turbulent of years.

It was Bobby who climbed aboard that flatbed truck in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968 and informed the crowd of mostly black supporters that “Martin Luther King was shot and killed.” The crowd gasped in horror. RFK then went on to call for “love” and “compassion for one another.”

As other major U.S. cities erupted in violence that night, Indianapolis remained calm.

I don’t know whether Robert Francis Kennedy would have attained the highest office in America had death not taken him that night. My heart tells me there was a path to the Democratic nomination and to election. But ā€¦ that must remain for others’ speculation.

The nation lost a champion for humanity five decades ago.

Today, though, I want to salute the fellow who entered this world 93 years ago today and embarked on a too-brief journey in a quest to heal the wounds that harmed us.

Happy birthday, Bobby. Many millions of us still miss you.

MLK Jr. dies; RFK gives speech for the ages

Forty-seven years ago a single rifle shot killed one of the 20th century’s greatest Americans, Martin Luther King Jr.

James Earl Ray would be captured, tried and convicted of murdering Dr. King. He would die in prison.

Not long after the rifle shot ended the life of the Nobel laureate and champion of non-violent civil disobedience, a politician stepped to the microphone in Indianapolis. Robert F. Kennedy was campaigning for the presidency on April 4, 1968 and he decided to tell the mostly African-American crowd some tragic news.

He told them that Dr. King had been murdered and then he delivered one of the greatest extemporaneous speeches in modern political history.

RFK sought to quell the rage that rose from the shock of the news. He succeeded that night. While other cities across the country erupted in violence, Indianapolis remained calm.

I remember the events of that day very well. I was a teenager struggling to find my own way. I’dĀ discovered a path later that summer when I was inducted into the U.S. Army.

Dr. King could stir enormous passion in people. He sought justice for African-Americans but insisted on taking a peaceful path. That he would die a violent death remainsĀ to this dayĀ one of the great tragic ironies of the 20th century.

Robert Kennedy’s courage that night in Indianapolis would be almost unheard of today. He urged the crowd to reach out and to seekĀ the goodnessĀ among each other.

That was aĀ turbulent time. RFK’s brother — the president of the United States — was struck down by an assassin less than five years earlier.

Indeed, Robert Kennedy’s own life would end violently two months and one day after Dr. King’s assassination.

In that brief moment, standing in the night, Robert Kennedy sought to honor Martin Luther King Jr. by seeking to tap the better angels of a society torn by violence.