Robert Kennedy (1925 - 1968), then
serving as his brother President John Kennedy's Attorney General,
was asked in 1962: "What do you see as the big problem ahead for
you, is it crime or internal security?" He replied: "Civil
that if one man's rights are denied, the rights of all are
In fact, Kennedy's commitment to
civil rights would define his political persona, beyond even his
legendary zeal to stamp out crime and corruption.
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 it's love, peace, and compassion towards one another,
and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our
country, whether they be white, or whether they be black.
This commitment was evident
throughout his career as Attorney General and later as United
States Senator. In 1962 Kennedy ordered troops to Mississippi to
enforce a Federal court order admitting the first African American
student to the University of Mississippi. He also worked with
Presidents Kennedy and Johnson on the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
which outlawed segregation in schools and other public places. He
supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and social programs to aid
we can make ourselves a nation that spends more on books than on
bombs, more on
hospitals than the terrible tools of war, more on decent houses
than military aircraft.
Robert Kennedy might never have
entered the 1968 race for the presidency had it not been for Eugene
McCarthy's near upset of President Johnson in the New Hampshire
Primary, exposing Johnson's weakness and deep divisions within the
master change not through force or fear, but only through the free
work of an understanding mind, through an openness to new knowledge
and fresh outlooks, which can only strengthen the most fragile and
most powerful of human gifts: the gift of reason.
Kennedy would go on to defeat Eugene
McCarthy in the important California primary on June 5, 1968, only
to be assassinated moments later at the Ambassador Hotel in Los
Angeles. His surviving brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, spoke of him
at the funeral mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City: "
My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what
he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man,
who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to
heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."
Our brave young men are dying in the swamps of
Southeast Asia. Which of them might have written a poem?
Which of them might have cured cancer? Which of them might have
played in a World Series or given us the
gift of laughter from the stage or helped build a bridge or a
university? Which of them would have taught a
child to read? It is our responsibility to let these men
It is indecent if they die
because of the empty vanity of their country.