Water Man Spouts

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY)

Every morning, my oldest daughter (age 14) and I watch the news together, and discuss "current events." Today, of course, there is coverage of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. She asked me what I remembered from that day? As I answered her, I felt a lump in my throat, something I suspect others my age are experiencing today.

My oldest brother used to be focused on the deaths of JFK and RFK. My father always said that he was missing their true significance, which was their lives, rather than their deaths.

This morning, I thought I’d share ten quotes that remind me of what it was that made Robert Kennedy such an important leader for so many Americans who are remembering him today. I hope that you enjoy them, and will add your thoughts on RFK.

H2O Man

{1} "Bobby was forging a new democratic coalition – a politics of outsiders – that he could only hope would be enough to gain the nomination. Kennedy emerged as ‘our first politician for the pariahs, our great national outsider, our lonely reproach, the natural standard held out to rebels,’ Kempton observed. ‘That is the wound about him which speaks to children he has never seen. He will always speak to children, and he will probably always be out of power.’ Once the hard-charging realist of his brother’s campaign, Bobby Kennedy turned into an almost quixotic candidate who jumped into the murky waters of 1968 on impulse rather than by calculated design. …. Bobby wouldn’t hear of not running. What he said about the lessons of Vietnam now seemed to apply to himself and his country: ‘Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.’ " – Thomas Maier; The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings

{2} "Being Irish, I have an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustains me through temporary periods of joy." – W. B. Yeats

{3} "What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling that justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black." – Robert F. Kennedy; April 4, 1968

{4} "After a long discussion of the country’s woes, the interviewer asked Bobby, ‘But you are an optimist?’ Kennedy nodded and smiled his weary-eyed smile. ‘Just because you can’t live any other way, can you?’ he replied. He was America’s first and last existential leader." – David Talbot; Brothers

{5} "It has been said that each generation must win its own struggle to be free …..But the stakes are the same: the right to live in dignity according to the dictates of conscience and not according to the will of the state." – Robert F. Kennedy

{6} "I love my country too much to be a nationalist." – Albert Camus

{7} "Dangerous changes in American life are indicated by what is going on in America today. Disaster is our destiny unless we reinstall the toughness, the moral idealism which has guided this nation during its history. The paramount interest in oneself, for money, for material goods, for security, must be replaced by an interest in one another – an actual, not just vocal, interest in our country; a search for adventure, a willingness to fight, a will to win; a desire to serve our community, our schools, our nation.

{8} "So if we are uneasy about our country today, perhaps it is because we are truer to our principles than we realize, because we know that our happiness will come not from goods we have but from the good we do together …. We say with Camus: ‘I should be able to love my country and still love justice.’ " – Robert F. Kennedy

{9} "Some people see things and say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were, and I say, ‘Why not?’ " – George Bernard Shaw

{10} "On the day Robert Kennedy himself died, a New York Seneca, whose reservation he had visited in 1967, wrote his widow: ‘We loved him, too, Mrs. Kennedy. Loving a public official is almost unheard of, as history bears out. We trusted him. Unheard of, too, for an Indian. We had faith in him.’ Vine Deloria, Jr., the Standing Rock Sioux who wrote ‘Custer Died for Your Sins,’ observed that Kennedy’s intercession had probably discouraged federal action ‘because of his many political enemies and their outright rejection of causes he advocated.’ Still, said Deloria in a fine sentence, he was a man ‘who could move from world to world and never be a stranger anywhere.’ And Indians thought him ‘as great a hero as the most famous Indian war chiefs precisely because of his ruthlessness.’ At last, somewhere, that reputation had its advantages. ‘Indians,’ said Deloria, ‘saw him as a warrior, the white Crazy Horse’ – the great war chief of the Oglala Sious who did, Deloria said, what was best and what was for the people.’ Kennedy, Deloria concluded, ‘somehow validated obscure undefined feelings of Indian people which they had been unwilling to admit to themselves. Spiritually, he was an Indian.’"
--Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.; Robert Kennedy and His Times


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