Tonight, in lieu of a Super Bowl which I had absolutely no need to watch, I chose to finally see the 2006 movie, Bobby, about the intersecting lives of 22 mostly strangers on the day on which Robert F. Kennedy wins the California primary, June 4, 1968, and ends shortly after midnight on June 5, when he is shot. He clung to life for 26 hours before letting go.
The movie, like the book The Last Campaign by Thurston Clarke, reminds me there were many peripheral individuals around his campaign, his life, and his death. The same incidents happen during other momentous events.
President John F. Kennedy helped steer me toward learning more about the political process. I was in high school when he was assassinated, but before he died, I had founded and become the first president of the Harrison County Teen Democrats.
JFK helped me pay attention to the system, but it was his brother, RFK, who was my first true political love. As his brother’s attorney general, Bobby had fought with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa. He was impassioned about civil rights and the need for whites and blacks to co-exist.
Even though he briefly had Dr. Martin Luther King wiretapped, he worked tirelessly to protect Dr. King and his movement. And, in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968, when he learned of Dr. King’s assassination, he made this impromptu speech.
There seemed to be so much loss and so many reasons to hope in 1968. Losses: Vietnam and the Tet Offensive, which was the turning point in a war the United States could never win, Dr. King; RFK. Hopes: Dr. King and RFK.
His brother, Ted Kennedy, said during his eulogy after Bobby was killed, “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. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: ‘Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.’”
I say that dream remains alive today.