“We’ve had difficult times in the past. We will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.” Robert F. Kennedy, April 1968

Today is June 5th.

For my parents’ generation the day that “matters” is June 6th – D-Day, the day “the greatest generation” expressed what Lincoln called in the Gettysburg Address “the last full measure of devotion.” That’s the day U.S. history books celebrate.

For those of us who were and are their children, there’s another anniversary. It’s one that’s not celebrated but remembered instead (if at all) with the sense of disillusionment, rage, and pain that haunts our generation – the generation of “revolution” and “flower power” that became instead, (in too many cases, anyway) the “generation of swine.”

That’s today. June 5th. The day Bobby Kennedy was shot….

1968 was one of the most turbulent years of the 20th century. Student uprisings at Columbia University and other colleges across America introduced the nation to Students for a Democratic Society. Their treatment by police as the cops broke up the student demonstrations was but a prelude to the carnage to take place at the Democratic National Convention in August:

The students in Math (bldg.) (some of whom — the ones who weren’t killed in the 1970 East 11th Street townhouse explosion — later went on to the Democratic convention in Chicago, and then formed the Weather Underground) (deep breath…) received less gentle treatment — one student was thrown from a second-story window and landed on a professor (Jim Shenton), breaking the professor’s arm.

The assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4 rocked the country:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight , that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Martin Luther King, April 3, 1968.

After the meeting King and his party were taken to the Lorraine Motel. The following day King was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of the motel. His death was followed by rioting in 125 cities and resulted in forty-six people being killed.

And finally, there was Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson’s insistence on escalating the war in Southeast Asia (mostly on the advice of guys like Robert McNamara, William Westmoreland, and Curtis LeMay) and using the military draft as a way to bolster the ranks of available troops ruined his chances of re-election. After barely winning the New Hampshire primary, Johnson withdrew from the election campaign.

Bobby Kennedy had entered the campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination barely two weeks before – just after Johnson’s New Hampshire debacle. He’d done so reluctantly at the behest of voices as diverse as Pete Hamill and Cesar Chavez. In announcing his candidacy, Kennedy knew he’d incur the wrath of those within and without his party:

“I do not run for the Presidency merely to oppose any man, but to propose new policies. I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I’m obliged to do all I can.” Robert F. Kennedy, March 16, 1968.

Kennedy challenged Americans to work for racial and economic justice and spoke openly of the need to find a way to end the debacle in Vietnam. He castigated students who supported the War while benefiting from student deferments. On the night of April 4th in the wake of MLK’s assassination, he gave an impassioned impromptu speech on racial understanding to an inner city audience in Indianapolis that is credited with forestalling riots there.

Kennedy soon won primaries in a number of states and became Vice-President Hubert Humphrey’s main opponent. He went to California in hopes of winning there and defeating Humphrey at the Democratic Convention….

In 1968 North Carolina didn’t have a Presidential primary. Candidates had supporters and those supporters hired campaign workers to canvass for them. These canvassers knocked on doors and asked residents of voting age if they were Dems and if so, for whom were they voting? In the pre-Nixon “Southern strategy” South, voters were overwhelmingly Democratic, so there were lots of voters’ opinions to be gathered. This information was then fed to party leaders who advised delegates so that they would reflect the will of their citizenry. Canvassers were overwhelmingly young, mostly high school and college kids. The people taking our data and offering delegate voting advisement were old pols who probably already had their minds made up.

Yeah, it was a rotten system, but it was what we had. Reform wouldn’t come until the next Presidential election in 1972 as a result of the efforts of George McGovern, among others.

I was a canvasser for Bobby Kennedy. I was one of the youngest, not quite 16. I spent a long, long day on June 5th, my second day working, visiting dozens of homes, sometimes treated kindly, sometimes rudely, mostly indifferently. Bobby Kennedy was a civil rights supporter and that didn’t always play well in my little home town in NC. But I believed in Bobby. I felt like he was giving us a chance to get back to the magic I’d felt about our country as an elementary school kid during his brother’s administration.

Bobby would bring back Camelot. A sadder but wiser Camelot to be sure – but Camelot.

I finally got home about 9 PM on the night of June 5th, bone tired but happy. I ate some dinner, talked to my parents about my adventures going door to door trying to convince Southern Democrats that Bobby Kennedy was right, and managed to stay awake through the 11 PM news. The news was good – Bobby won California and would only have to beat Humphrey in a Chicago showdown. I faded quickly and my mom woke me and told me to go to bed before Johnny Carson got through his opening monologue….

It was still dark outside when I felt my mom’s hand shaking my shoulder. “You need to get up,” she said and started out of my room.

“What’s going on?”

My mother hung her head. “Bobby Kennedy’s been shot,” she said softly and walked out.

I was out of bed at warp speed and parked in front of the TV in the den. There the flickering pictures proved my mom’s information true. Another Kennedy assassinated. Another senseless act of violence on a man who asked only for peace and justice for those less fortunate than himself .

For me, the “last, best hope” gone.

I became a cynic in my political thinking, indifferent to a system that killed its best. I devoted my energies to rock and roll and wretched excess in the ensuing years. Except for a spite vote for McGovern in 1972 to piss off my Nixon loving father, I took no interest in politics, especially Presidential politics, until 1992 when an Xer friend shamed me into finally standing up again. I voted for Clinton because he reminded me a little of that hero of my youth – Bobby Kennedy.

And every June 5th I stop for a few moments and remember how I believed in what America could be once – try to get some of that belief back – and, to use an old Boomer chestnut, “keep on keeping on.”

And I ask Bobby to forgive me – and my generation – for failing to pick up his torch….

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49 replies »

  1. Richard:

    I got to this point: “Cheney would emphasize that some strategic miscues which occurred on the Republicans’ watch were a result of his judgment not being followed, as RFK did about Vietnam.”

    …and spewed Pepsi out my nose.

  2. Amen. As a 16 year old boy myself at the time, I cried in my bed upon hearing the radio reports as I was listening to the returns. I have met Robert Jr. and while he looks like his father, he does not have his Father’s energy or presence.

    Now look at our country, how very sad.

  3. An absolutely superb essay, Jim. I was too young at the time to know much, but I guess my conclusion was that if your name was Kennedy it was only a matter of time before somebody shot you.

    You can’t help wondering what the world would look like today if Sirhan Sirhan had missed….

  4. A most fitting tribute. I remember walking into the house, my mother was watching Bobby’s speech and ironing. I felt my knees buckle, and screamed……….”What the fuck is wrong with this country.” Like you, I had had enough after JFK and Martin.

    We were very Catholic in those days, so to say what I said and not get my face slapped raw, was a miracle. I don’t think my mother even heard it the shock was so intense.

    BTW, #2 poster, what the hell are you talking about. That’s not even funny to joke about chainhole and use its name in the same sentence with RFK.

    Please do go cheney yourself.

  5. Yes, Sam, but I could only give a cursory read……………..not in the mood for jokes today. Also, I find nothing involving chainee to be, “sublime.”

    Still, if I could stomach it, there may be some humor to glean from it.

  6. I was very young during the 1960s, but when studying our nation’s recent political history, I became extremely captivated with Bobby Kennedy as a whirlwind of political activity in the late 60s, someone who really connected with blacks and Hispanics in a manner that no other white politician has since. The tragedy of his death is that he was truly someone who I felt could have bridged the minority/poverty communities with the Democratic Establishment and made some headway into our poverty/underclass situation had he lived to be President. I especially find interesting how different, how much more passionate toward social justice he became as compared to JFK. Every election that goes by results in many folks asking themselves, “What if he had lived…!”

  7. Don’t over look the aggony of the next day. Bobby lingered until about mid-day pefore he passed away. There was some home that he would survive.

  8. That made me cry. I, too, was 16 at the time of Bobby’s killing. I lived in Los Angeles, and so we actually saw it as news broke into the regular programming. I work in Koreatown now, and that narrow stretch of road on Wilshire Blvd., in front of the old Ambassador Hotel, was renamed years ago to Robert F. Kennedy Highway (although it’s just a main street). I pass by the asassination area every day. Kennedy and King months apart in 1968 … very sad year.

  9. I had just seen him speak at a local community college before the primary. He was electric. He was so passionate. His face was animated and so unbelievably intense. He believed every word he spoke. I have missed that in our leaders.

    When I got the news, I couldn’t believe I’d just seen him speak and now he was gone. All that brilliance and passion–gone. Instead the country was taken down a different road. A road we are still trying to get off of, to no avail.

    This was a great entry. Thank you.

  10. I was in high school when he died. We all went outside and sat around, talking about him. I remember that he was someone who, even though he was filthy rich, cared about the poorest of us all. He did things because he believed they were right for everyone, including the least of us. He believed in ethics and morality above all. I can’t think of one politician now who can fit that description.

    The cheney comparison is a horrible, sick joke. It made my brain hurt.

  11. I, too, was 16 that year and June 6th has always stuck in my mind as “the day Bobby died”. Struggling through the 80’s and the attitude generated during that decade of not only “me first” but “only me”, I have been almost unable to articulate the philosophy of the 60’s we all assumed as our own but have almost lost these day. That was until I saw a replay of Ted Kennedy’s speech at the 1992 Democratic Convention on CSPAN last night. It had a lot of the “remember when” phrases but it also relit that fervor of compassionate policies this country pursued in those days and also refreshed my memory of the words I prefer to live by and of the policies I wish this country would again pursue…words Bobby would have used.

  12. Jim,
    Thanks for this. I remember the day after, I was working a summer job in Winston-Salem with a bunch of good old boy plumbers, etc., who hooted at Bobby’s untimely departure just as they had at Dr. King’s.
    I weep sometimes both for what we might have been, and what we have become as a country.

    Remember St. Clement’s?

  13. I was newly married. Bobby had campained in South Bend. My then husband worked downtown, stepped out and got to shake his hand and looked directly into those sad eyes, To say we were devastated and inconsolable would be an understatment. The marriage went by the way side as did any interest in politics till Clinton……But then he broke my heart in a different way………
    A new candidate that even comes close…….no – we are all way to cynical for that. From now on its just going to be the lesser of the evils…………..its just about the money now………..

  14. I was a 10-year-old Manhattanite, wise to the ways of the world. I’d go out to the marches to be part of the movement, for peace, for fairness. The assasinations, all of them, were devastating. But RFK’s hit hardest of all, perhaps because by then we were raw, sick with an almost desperate hope that the world could somehow be made right again. RFK’s death seemed somehow to be the last straw, the final dimming of the light.

    My mother worked for RFK’s campaign in New York (for some reason I recall a cotton head-scarf she’d been given, printed with a in red white and blue of his initials that she treasured) with and I remember her devastation. She was literally the saddest I’d ever seen her. She wept and wept behind locked doors, the blinds drawn against the bright day.

    I knew why she wept. I knew what was at stake. What I could never have known was how real a threat evil was, how it was breathing down our necks, to take full form now in this America – where the liars and thieves and the apologists for liars and thieves have swept hope from the land.

    Thanks for the reminder of a time when a man of RFK’s intellect and compassion stood up to lead us.

  15. Sam, I spewed Pepsi, too — which was really strange, because I wasn’t drinking anything at all at the time, and we don’t even have Pepsi in the house.

  16. I am too young to remember Bobby Kennedy – I was about a week old when he was assassinated. But when I read about him, there was always the sense that something was lost when he died.
    Recently, I saw the movie “Bobby”, and that reinforced that feeling for me. I look at the people of my own generation, and I wonder “where are they? The MLks, the RFKs? Where are they? The leaders with real ideals that can really inspire people?” I cannot imagine my generation, or the ones that are coming after, producing people.
    Where are they?

  17. To this day, I cannot talk about RFK’s campaign–the sheer magic of it–to the young folk without weeping. We will pay for his loss forever.

  18. I was 17 when Bobby Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan. The thought of that scene in the hotel in California still haunts me. Your posting of what he meant to you and to the country was remarkable. Thank you for making me think again, what if he had lived!

  19. What memories. What sadness at all that could have been. I was in college when Bobby was shot and had campaigned for him in the Indiana primary. I had to go home to NY to work for the next semester’s tuition, so could not volunteer in California. To tell you the truth, I thanked God I was not in the ballroom that night. As it was, the devastation of that night has lasted all these years. But thanks to the values of the college I attended and the inspiration of RFK, I have had an amazing life serving the poor and homeless here in Syracuse New York. I knew Bobby would never be forgotten and 39 years later, how fitting it is that we pause and remember that sad day for our country and the world.

  20. The Day JFK was shot in Dallas I punched out a guy that said something to the effect that it was about time someone took him out. The day Martin Luther was shot, I merely turned away in, I suppose, hopelessness at the racist comments I heard – and the day Bobby was shot – I was so numb at the news I could only sit in despair and disbelief. I have watched our country fall from the heights of a vision of a bright future to the depths of an unending war under a dictator with all the attendant loss of our rights – and responsibilities – as Americans.

  21. Reading this post brought brought me right back to that painful moment.

    I was too young to vote – I was 15 – but I was planning to work for the Kennedy campaign that Summer and Fall – I was willing to do anything – address envelopes, go door to door, sweep cigarette butts off the floor, anything – and the California victory had me walking on air – then just as suddenly the roof caved in. I too became completely cynical about politics – though I voted in 1972 (they’d changed the voting age to 18 by then, and I was 19) – and have voted in all but one election since. That cynicism has never really left me – about politics, about the country and the citizens inhabiting it, about the system.

    I often wonder what kind of country we would be now if Robert Kennedy had become President. I wonder how the political lanscape would have looked if he’d had two terms. Our history over the last 40 years would have looked a lot different.

    There are no RFK’s or MLK’s now because there is nobody who speaks their mind bravely, unvarnished, and without fear. Bobby was a Statesman – not a politician. The problem with this time – and really, ever since his assassination – is that there have been way too many politicians, way too many demagogues, and no Statesmen.

  22. I was born in 1983, and never got to see him, but the tremendous respect he so obviously commands all these years after his death is incredible.
    I have felt my entire life that the United States was off-track, slowly chipping away at our liberties while simultaneously losing ground with the rest of the world community. The future of America doesn’t feel as bright as it’s supposed to. I’m sure that this is due, in part, to the untimely death of RFK.

  23. I had just heard the victory speech and turned off the tv and went to bed feeling very happy. When I awoke the next morning my six year old was up watching tv as he usually watched cartoons in the morning and he told me Kennedy had been shot. I said no that happened a long time ago and I went on about making some coffee. He went outside and got the morning paper and pointed to the headline confirming the assasination. Like the other posters politics have never been the same for me. I too worked for McGovern in 72 and after that there has’nt been many bright spots.

  24. I’ve studied mostly the JFK Assassination, but from what I understand, there’s far less talk of conspiracy in the RFK Assassination, than in either the JFK or MLK(Martin Luther KING, is the ONLY true “King,” in American history, to and for me) Murders.

    Sirhan was CAUGHT, right in the act of his horrible deed, right? Although, his, Sirhan’s older brother, etcetera, DID give Sirhan the murder weapon, so we see that there ARE conspiracies in just about everything that Humans do together in Life.

    Now I do NOT herein, wish to veer the very thoughtful postings so far, off into ANY investigationS of any or all THREE of these Great and truly AMERICAN, Patriots and heroes.

    But, as a Historian(well, as my A-vocation) of a kind, I full well have learned from history, that without a TRUE and a FULL Investiagtion of: JFK’s Murder, MLK’s Murder(these two true Conspiracies, i would argue, am less convinced of a far greater “plot,” to kill this Great and GOOD man, in R.F.Kennedy’s murder) and RFK’s, AND such as the “S$omehow,” allowed for Hours$$, 9/11/2001 AD Attacks$$, my beloved Fellow Americans(and decent folks, everywhere!), that the WAR PROFITEERS$$, the “Warren ‘Commission’ Criminals$,” the “Official” 9/11 OMMISSION Criminals$$, etcetera, ie the Ruling RIGHTISTS$ in this Former Country, of “THE FORMER USA”(Much like the now, FORMER “USSR,” whatever “Ideals” they may have had[and killing off NAZIS$$ in WWII, was a Damned GOOD ONE! 90% of German Military Casualties came on The EASTERN FRONT, the RUSSIANS{or Soviets-} WESTERN Front[it was, for THEM, from Their WORLD VIEW, something that a JFK, an RFK, and a MLK, always tried to take stock of, other nations’ VIEWPOINTS] against their Soviet enemy, like it or don’t. The Historical FACTS remain, that the always “Evil” USSR, helped save Human CIVILIZATION, in World War Two, America’s Last, “Good” War!), that these “American” CORPORATIONS$ and War-DisaS$ter-MiS$ery, etcetera, PROFITEERS$$, will CONTINUE to ‘earn” their “Profits$,” through the Feigned “Ignorance” of the larger “herd,” of the American “Citizenry,” ie, the “American” SHEEPLE!! That is all, I can NOT begin to match the courage of the three great men I’ve most noted in this Posting–but this very INTERNET, etcetera, hath shown, that we, the real PEOPLE,right from the GRASS ROOTS of citizenship, can WIN BACK this land, HOWEVER the means work themselves out for us to do so, is a question, yes, to follow, for HISTORY, but we DID take back Congress in the 2006 Mid-Terms{just barely in the US SENATE, i fully understand; and we did WIN the 40 or so HOUSE Seats to the democrats even with the Repubs$-Corporatis$ts Vote-S$UPPRESSING Machine{see Karl ROVE’;s and all the other’s actions in this US Attorneys Scandal, this utter CRIMINALITY, for “Jehovah’s-and Allah’s-and -Buddha’s Sake”!] taking away as much as 4-5% of the Dems VOTES, in nov. 2006, according to GREG PALAST, and others) that Grass roots CITIZENS(as you Posters who said you were Campaign Volunteers for BOBBY, in ’68, also prove this fact, of History!) are going to be THE REAL Engine, of real CHANGE, … we’ll need leaders, yes, Like a KUCINICH, a John EDWARDS, a Mike GRAVEL, even(he remembers those times, and this-here Senator Gravel-Lad, he AIN’T “TOO OLD,” at all!), but they can keep none of the PEOPLE’s MOMENTUM truly flowing, without OUR Grass Roots WORK, providing the real fuel of that new DEMOCRATIC ENGINE, which we have already BEGUN Such, in 2006’s Mid-terms, don’t get ‘too down,” about any of the Evil MURDERS of these Three Men, or of 9/11’s$, yes 9/11’s$ unanswered QuestionS$, as well, as those three great leaders, and all of the “Still with us,” THOUSANDS of GOOD SOULS from those Twin Towers at ground Zero(and the CLEAN-Up WorkerS, now all DYING from their Clean up, good works at ground Zero, The DEADLY TOXICITY there at Ground Zero, that they were LIED to, by this “Elected” “Pres$idency,” by “Epa’s” WHITMAN, and BY then New York’s “Mayor,” … GUILIANI!!

  25. Thank you all…so very much for bringing back some cherished memories of a man so brave and gifted as only Bobby could be. A man far ahead of his time….gifted with an insight into the human need for compassion and equality.

    I was almost 17 at the time….the fear of Vietnam almost knocking at my door….it was a sad year indeed….. Humanity…the world…lost two great hero’s that year.

    Martin and Bobby….you are sadly missed by so many.

    The goodness in humankind can never be silenced with a bullet.

  26. Thanks for this beautiful piece. I was 18 and getting ready to graduate from a suburban Chicago high school. I had also canvassed and worked the polls in Indiana for Bobby. I will never forget the feelings he evoked in this country. No one has ever, or will ever come close. My heart breaks each time I think of what might have been. It’s hard for anyone to relate today to the turbulence and passion then, unless you were old enough. I do feel a sense of guilt for how we have dropped the torch and elected crooks and thieves. Bill Clinton came close to reigniting the passion, but now who?

  27. I wasn’t even born until well after Bobby Kennedy was murdered, but I keep seeing people asking the same question – who will be the next RFK? I wish I had an answer, but I simply don’t.

    I have to believe that there are people in the country with the vision and the moral core that RFK had. What I don’t know anymore is whether those people have the resources of the Kennedy family, or whether we’ll need to reform the political system from top to bottom before we can see another Bobby in politics.

  28. I too was not born, not until 1979. Slowly but surely I have learned about RFK. I cannot claim to have ever seen him, or heard him speak in person, but even now reading his speeches, his words excite me. I cannot help but wonder what would have been today if had lived yesterday. It is nice to read posts such as these remembering a man who we might not see the likes of ever again, which is too bad because it does seem that people are waiting to be inspired. My parents never forced politics on me, but through teaching me to care about the plight of others I came to find some amazing examples in RFK and MLK. My advice to re-awaken this generation, and those that follow, teach them compassion, that the world is bigger than what is in front of their face. Teach them that as bleak as things might look we can still change the world around us, it is never too late. Simply saying “I can’t” is just another way of saying “I won’t”…I would bet my last nickel that if RFK or MLK saw the world today they would roll up their sleeves and get busy…

  29. Thank you for the touching rememberance. I, too, was devastated at the news. I was fresh out of college and was so excited to be working on Bobby’s campaign. I was a “Kennedy Kutie” in JFK’s campaign at the age of 14. I cried for weeks when he was shot.

    The sting of JFK’s assassination was dulling a bit and Bobby’s candidacy gave me new hope. When MLK was killed, I began worring about Bobby… I wish I hadn’t been so prescient! After two tragic assassinations, Bobby was all we had left. When he was taken from us, I went to my old bedroom at my Mother’s house and shut the door and stayed there for the rest of the year! I just couldn’t deal with anything. To this day, this remains the lowest point of my life. To live without hope is worse than death and I thank the universe that I was able to finally pull out of my depression sometime in early 1969.

    I love my country and have worked in politics to make it better for most of my life, expect for that time when hope died…

  30. As a supporter of Senator Eugene McCarthy, the candidate who was the first to offer an alternative to the hawkish LBJ and Humphrey, I was not happy with Robert Kennedy’s decision to enter the race, for it would further divide the those in the Democratic Party who were against the war in Viet Nam.
    The Democratic Party is in a similar divided position today, with some favoring a quicker end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq and some not. I am thankful that some maniac hasn’t decided to settle the issue with a gun.

  31. Bobby was a wonderful extemporaneous speaker, witnessed by his comments on the event of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and his call for calm. He was on the way to a speaking event when he got the news. Though he had a paragraph written out, the main body of the speech was made up on the spot.

    You know who else can do that? Ted Kennedy can, on any civil rights issue. If you have C-SPAN and can watch the Senate debates right now, you’ll probably see some of the Kennedy fire and charm.

    Here is text, audio and video of the speech, April 4, 1968, in Indianapolis: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/rfkonmlkdeath.html

  32. The post was brilliant–although a tearjerker, and the comments invoke a bittersweet nostalgia, sweet with memories of the hopes and dreams we had for this country, and bitter that in all likelihood we will never see days like those again. God how I miss the 60s!

  33. You and I were the same age, so a lot of our memories and thoughts are similar. You still have time to pick up Bobby’s torch…I’m doing that by supporting Barack Obama. Think about it.

  34. I stumbled on your post late last night and it really brought back memories. The media always talks about the date of his death (June 6), but I, like you, always remember Bobby on the day he was shot.

    I too was 15 in 1968 and was totally invigorated by him. I had read his book. He had come to my LA suburb a couple of weeks before the primary and had done a motorcade. I remember running after it – reaching out and trying to touch his hand. I wasn’t fast enough. But I was so excited by him and what he stood for, what he was talking about. I also went door to door for his campaign, handing out pamphlets.

    I was watching the primary results in our living room and saw it unfold on TV. I remember screaming and running towards my parent’s bedroom – my mom was also watching TV and she screamed too. We sat there on the bed and we were crying and just kind of numb. I was awake for hours. I was so upset I couldn’t sleep. Either my memory is fuzzy or I’m getting old (or both) – but I thought that it happened just before midnight, on the 4th. In any event, from when he was shot until he died on the 6th was just a blur for me. I was in junior high, and everyone was so upset. I had this tiny little transistor radio that was about 2″ square and I walked around with it at my ear all day at school – giving updates to everyone as I heard them. People came up to me all day long, asking if there was any news. This was before schools had TV’s everywhere and obviously before the Internet. Just this tiny little transistor radio. I don’t even think they make them anymore.

    Everyone was impacted – everyone – the teachers, the students, everyone. My school was over 50% Hispanic and heavily Catholic; Bobby was well-liked, and not just by the white kids. He just seemed to infect everyone with hope. My mom was a Republican and she was inspired by him! I have not felt hopeful about a politician from then until recently – Obama gives me an inkling of hope, but it’s not the same as with Bobby, and I’m scared to let myself feel it. Scared to let myself think that maybe somebody can inspire people to change and to do good, to be a good country again. But also scared that people with be threatened by Obama the same way that they were threatened by Martin and Bobby.

    Thanks for sharing your recollections; it is cathartic to remember who he was and what he wanted to do before the rug was pulled out from under him. And to remember a time when people actually wanted to work for the public good – a time when I was not so cynical.


  35. I was 12 when Bobby was killed, to this day he remains my political hero. A friend found a Kennedy for President campaign poster from 1968 and gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago. I framed it and display it proudly in my home. I, too, cry whenever I watch the films of him in California and then the image of the train vigil from New York to Arlington….what might of been if he had been elected and what a different country American might of been.

  36. I was about 4and a half when RFK was shot. I remember the day, believe it or not. My mother was pregnant with my sister. (hugely, she would deliver on July 3.) She was in the kitchen cleaning, and I was in front of the TV watching the afternoon movie.
    Bit of background info…My family was very much in favor of knowledge, and my uncle used to have me watch Walter Cronkite with him and then play a game called, “What’s Your Opinion.” It was his way of getting some peace while the new was on, but it worked for him, and it made me think. I had to HAVE an opinion, and present a reason for it. It could be any reason, except, “I don’t know” or “Because that’s what I think.”
    I went in to tell my mother that President Kennedy had been shot, and she stopped in her tracks for a minute, then said, “Yes, honey, that was before you were born.” When I said, “No, just now…It’s on TV.”, she ran to the front room. (as much as a pregnant woman can run.)
    When I got to the livingroom, she was on the floor sobbing. It scared the crap out of me, as a kid. I remember asking her if the baby was coming, and she sat up, and just held me for a very long , uncomfortable, time. I remember crying, but only because she was, not understanding why. When she got herself together, she explained to me that a very good man had been killed. She told me his brother was a very good man as well, and that it was very sad that three such good men, could be killed. (I’m assuming that she meant Dr. King as well, but we lived in Mississippi at the time.)

    I think that seeing my mother so upset and overwhelmed about RFK, is what pushed me to become interested in politics at an early age. I know that my uncle’s game didn’t hurt, but I think that seeing how politics really does affect people’s lives, is what moved me to find out more about it.

    As an aside, My mother is, now, intensely anti political. She watches FOX news, but maintains her idenification as a Democrat. She refuses to discuss who she votes for, and has since I can remember going to the polls with her. She did tell me once, years ago, that she didn’t think that she COULD ever vote for a Republican because of what they did to the Kennedys. But other than that, I haven’t a clue what her political beliefs are.