Wednesday, April 15, 2015

RFK His Life & Death: Mini-Review

This short volume, published very soon after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, captures the immediacy and horror of the event after giving the reader a brief biography of RFK's roots and the years leading to his brief run towards the presidency. It is full of photos--including well-known photographs as well a pictures that I hadn't seen published in other books about Kennedy. It also includes an eyewitness account of his final hours from a member of the American Heritage staff assigned to cover the Indiana and California primaries.

America, I believe, lost something very important in June of 1968. Kennedy's detractors tried to say that he had suddenly changed his image in order to make his bid for the highest office--that he had to increase his appeal to minorities, the young, and the poor in order to make a campaign viable. But he didn't "suddenly" change. He had been fighting in small ways for the marginalized and under-represented for years. The earliest mention in this book comes in the 1950s while he was attending law school at the U of Virginia. At the time, Kennedy was president of the Student Legal Forum and responsible for inviting many dignitaries to speak at student events. Dr. Ralph Bunche had been invited and Bunche accepted with the proviso that the audience be integrated. 

Bobby, according to a Forum committee member, "blew his stack" at the Southern students who rebelled against signing a resolution favoring the integration they approved in principle...."He had a lack of understanding of the problems these people faced; to him it seemed illogical to support something but be unable to sign for it." Bobby carried his fight to the president of the university after rejecting a compromise solution, and Bunch spoke to an integrated audience. It had been Bobby's first fight on a matter of principle and he had won. (p. 53)

When Kennedy was killed and his body was sent by train back to the Capitol, the tracks were lined with those who saw a dream ended. A dream represented in part by a speech Kennedy made after another dreamer, Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed:

What we need in the United love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our own country, whether they be white or they be black.

It was true then and it remains true now.

I will admit to being a bit dazzled by the glow of the dream that never was. Who can say what changes might have come from a Bob Kennedy presidency? (Yes, Bob. He never liked "Bobby.") I first became interested in Robert F Kennedy in high school history class when we covered this period of American History. When we were assigned an in-depth research paper I was drawn to the figure of RFK. At that time, I read from many biographies and other histories of the time...both those pro-Kennedy and those against. I soon became one of many who believe that Bob Kennedy could have made a difference. This book reminded me of that research and reminded me of what might have been. ★★★★

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Now this sounds like a book I would get engrossed in. Fantastic review!