Bobby Kennedy and the Summer of '68

Robert F. Kennedy, who was commonly known as Bobby, was pronounced dead of gunshot wounds at 1:44 in the morning of June 6, 1968.

Born November 20, 1925, Bobby was the seventh child of Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy. He was the younger brother of John F. Kennedy (Jack), and the older brother of Edward M. Kennedy (Ted). 

Just before he turned 18, Bobby enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve and went to the Navy College Training Program at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts and at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He ended his training and entered active duty in the Navy in 1946 and was honorably discharged later that year when the World War II was over.

He enrolled in law school at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, and soon after, married Ethel Skakel. 

He passed the Massachusetts Bar Exam and at the end of 1951, the small family moved to Washington, D.C. to work at the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. He resigned on June 6, 1952, in order to become the campaign manager for Jack’s successful run for the U.S. Senate.

Bobby went on to be the chief counsel on the Senate Labor Rackets Committee, where he went up against Jimmy Hoffa, then president of the Teamsters Union, in what would be an ongoing conflict between the two and fodder for Bobby’s book “The Enemy Within,” which was about the corruption within the labor unions which he had seen first-hand. 

He resigned in 1959 from the Rackets Committee in order to be the manager for his brother Jack’s successful presidential campaign in 1960. Having run Jack’s campaign for Congress previously, Bobby knew what he was doing, and they focused on Jack’s role as a a Representative and Senator, decorated war hero, published and articulate author of "Profiles in Courage", and loving father to Caroline and devoted husband to Jackie.

The field in 1960 was crowded, and some of those vying for the presidency were Democrats Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Adlai Stevenson. With Bobby’s help, Jack beat Richard Nixon in the general election by the Electoral College vote of 303 to 219. 

Once he won the presidency, Jack named his brother Bobby to the position of United States Attorney General in 1961. There was quite an uproar due to that decision, and the press continually called him inexperienced and worse. But the fact that he was a close advisor to the President and that he was very experienced in dealing with organized crime helped him to win the confirmation. 

His advice to the President proved to be invaluable during the Berlin Crisis, the Civil Rights movement, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Operation Mongoose.

He also continued to push forward against the Mafia and organized crime, and convictions against mob members rose by 800% under his watch.

After Jack was assassinated, Bobby remained as attorney general until 1964, and then went on to win a seat in the United States Senate for New York. He was well-loved by what he called the disaffected, the poor, and the excluded, and he avidly supported desegregation, antipoverty programs, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and he stood in vocal opposition of the undeclared war in Vietnam.

Although he had publicly said that he would not run for President against Lyndon Johnson, he changed his mind shortly after the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, when he became convinced that he had “an obligation of staying true” to his brother’s memory. The weekend before the New Hampshire primary, Bobby let some of his aides know that he was going to be entering the race. He declared that he would be running four days later, on March 16, 1968.

From the Caucus Room of the old Senate office building, the same place from which his brother had declared his candidacy eight years prior, he threw his hat in the ring, saying, "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.

This threw the political scene into chaos, and days later, on March 31, Johnson suddenly dropped out of the race. Hubert Humphrey leapt in to fill the void, with the backing of the Establishment Democrats.

But Bobby’s platform of a foreign policy of non-aggression, decentralization of power,  racial justice, and social improvement attracted young voters. His entry into the race caused rancor among many in the world of business, as well as with J. Edgar Hoover’s longtime partner and Associate Director of the FBI Clyde Tolson, who said, “I hope that someone shoots and kills the (expletive deleted).”

On April 4, 1968, when he head about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., he gave an impromptu speech in urban Indianapolis, calling for reconciliation between the races. Shortly afterwards, more than 60 cities reported major riots, but Indianapolis remained peaceful, and many credited that fact to Bobby’s speech.

He won the May 7 primary in Indiana, and then the May 14 primary in Nebraska. He lost the Oregon primary to Eugene McCarthy, the other anti-war candidate, but believed that if he could beat McCarthy in California, McCarthy would leave the race, and the remainder would be between Bobby and Humphrey at the August convention in Chicago.

Bobby did win the California primary, and just after midnight, he made a speech to his supporters in the ballroom at the Hotel Ambassador in Los Angeles. As he left the ballroom, taking a shortcut through the kitchen, he was shot by a 24-year old Palestinian-Jordanian who was reportedly angry about Bobby’s support for Israel during the Six-Day War in June of 1967. Bobby was shot three times, and five others were wounded.

He left behind his wife, Ethel, and 11 children: Kathleen Hartington Kennedy, Joeph Patrick Kennedy II, Robert Francis Kennedy Jr., David Anthony Kennedy, Mary Courtney Kennedy, Michael LeMoyne Kennedy, Mary Kerry Kennedy, Christopher George Kennedy, Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, Douglas Harriman Kennedy, and Rory Elizabeth Katherine Kennedy, who Ethel was carrying at the time Bobby died.


Extra Reading:

Encyclopedia Britannica: Robert F. Kennedy

Bio: Robert Kennedy Biography

Bobby Kennedy

The Declaration of Independence of the United States

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress. In honor of the founding document of the United States of America, arguably one of the most well-written and inspiring documents ever written, I am posting it here.

THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THE THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That, to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such Principles and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the right of Representation in the legislature; a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the People.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of Peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his protection, and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens, taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions, We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in GENERAL CONGRESS assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions, DO, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly PUBLISH and DECLARE, That these United Colonies are, and of Right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that, as FREE and INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do. AND for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

 


 

Further reading: