Most people remember Robert F. Kennedy, and especially the young generation which was not around at his time, including me, as one other politician that was assassinated in the 1960s. That decade, as we read in our history books today, was certainly one of tumultuous times with wars aboard as in tensions with Cuba, Vietnam and the Communists to the social unrest with the Civil Rights Movement and Free Speech Movement.
But the question is, who was Robert F. Kennedy? Was he the presidential candidate in 1968 Election, was he the senator from New York, was he the 64th Attorney General of the United States, and was he a great political mind from America’s First Family and political dynasty? All of the above are obviously true. But what is the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy that we should hold on to? For me, as for most historians, he was the man of peace and human rights.
Though the Kennedy administration inherited the war plans of Vietnam from the Eisenhower administration including that of the invasion of Cuba, but the Kennedy administration is very much responsible for carrying out these establishment plans from the military and foreign policy elites. Hence, it seems controversial and almost an exaggeration to call the brother of the President a man of peace, who worked as his closest adviser during the Cuban Missile Crisis and was his right-hand man, making him the second most powerful man in America during the early years of the 1960s, but the fair assessment is of how he throughout that time advocated not to attack Cuba, simply because the United States being a superpower does not attack small and incapable nations and go into asymmetric warfare. He also was against the escalation of war in Vietnam, but President John F. Kennedy had to send the military troops under pressure from the military advisors who said that this is the right thing to do after the coup in Vietnam which was orchestrated by the CIA. Robert’s moral arguments often did not win in front of those convincing tactics of the military and national security advisors.
Another thing that Robert F. Kennedy is cherished for is his stand for the civil rights and for the demand of equal treatment of all communities in America. He was the leader for the down-trodden and for the “forgotten America”, the parts which were left behind because of their economic conditions and their racial compositions. He ran for presidency just for this reason, to bring prosperity to these left behind areas and to end the war. He wanted to seek a positive leadership role for the United States in global politics and that very unfulfilled vision of his is the legacy he leaves behind. The world, and not just America, would have definitely been different had he achieved the Archimedean position of presidency he was looking for.
His assassination within four and half years of his brother, President Kennedy and within two months of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an end of the dream and hope for America, and his death is the day the dream and hope died for those forgotten people. The Kennedys brought charm and interest into politics from the youth of the country and when they were brutally removed from the political scene, the interest from the youth in political matters also faded away as they could not hold the same passions in the issues they wanted their leaders to take up and work on. But the sense of excitement that the Kennedys had risen in people regarding social and political issues is still out there at some level despite the waning.
Robert F. Kennedy was perhaps the best brother one could ask for as he was always behind President Kennedy protecting him the whole time. He was the best father that one could ask for as his children would let you know. Not only did he loved his own children, but he loved all children. He was also a “good and decent man” as eulogized by his youngest brother Senator Edward M. Kennedy. He was a faithful and loving husband, and to rest all those rumors, he never had an affair with any woman, and most certainly not with Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
The Kennedys and all their personal and professional activities being the fodder for the press of the day, they were always under fire and their stories still sell well. According to President Kennedy, Bobby, as he was candidly known, was “morally incorruptible” and when Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved the President was said to have remarked “Thank God for Bobby”. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis said of Robert F. Kennedy that he was the least like his father amongst his brothers and we all know what she meant by that. Joseph P. Kennedy was the 44th US Ambassador to the United Kingdom for almost two years under the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and was known more for the kind of man he was with women than perhaps for his appeasement measures. Rose Kennedy said after Robert’s assassination that we shall not see the like of him again. To a large extent, in political arena, her words are prophetic.
Robert F. Kennedy always sought the attention of his father being the 7th of 9 children, but always got the care from his mother. He was a shy and an introvert person, who was considered ruthless against organized crime and determined to serve justice and equality. He was debatably the best Attorney General in the history of the United States and would have been a great president too. He was born on November 20, 1925 and was assassinated on June 5, 1968 and died 26 hours later in Good Samaritan Hospital. To learn about who Robert F. Kennedy actually was, first of all, do not read unreliable and unauthentic books, but read these two: “Robert Kennedy and His Times” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and “Robert Kennedy: His Life” by Evan Thomas.
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