Forty years ago today, less a few hours, Bobby Kennedy claimed victory in the 1968 California Democratic primary…and a few minutes later hope turned to helplessness.
I was a child then, and remember the sheer shock of my parents that violence had again touched the American body politic. I have a hunch that my father would have voted for Nixon in the fall election, and my mother for RFK…Bobby had kicked off his West Virginia campaign in her hometown of Princeton, WV, and my grandmother shook his hand…so that kind of sealed the deal for her. His evolution from hatchet man for Roy Cohn to enforcer for his brother to a vessel of hope for so many captured her imagination, as he did for so many others in this country.
Many remember RFK in his final moments at the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 2008, with his “now it’s on to Chicago, and let’s win there!” shortly before his date with destiny.
But the moment that has long stuck in my mind was the speech he delivered in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968, when he broke the news to a large crowd that Martin Luther King had been killed:
I typically prefer the eloquence of the moment over the eloquence of the prepared speech, and I think there are few impromptu speeches that match that of Bobby Kennedy that night in Indianapolis.
So let us remember Bobby Kennedy, and move beyond his politics and consider what was lost forty years ago tonight. And let us remember, in these trying times, RFK’s favorite poet, Aeschylus, who wrote:
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
through the awful grace of God.
God bless the memory of Bobby Kennedy, God Bless us all, and God Bless the USA.