Tag Archives: bobby kennedy

Of Kennedys and Kings: Remembering 1968

* On the 40th anniversary of the MLK Assassination last year, our founding editor New Frontier wrote this remembrance of the tragic events which took place this week in 1968. We wanted to share it with you again today.

MLK and RFK

RFK and MLK

MARCH 31-APRIL 4, 1968 – A WEEK THAT CHANGED AMERICA

“Even in our sleep,
pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.”

 

– Aeschylus, as quoted by Robert Kennedy upon the death of MLK

Φ

40 years ago this week brought us to a critical turning point in the American experience.

By March of `68, with the peace movement rapidly growing and anti-war sentiment at its’ peak, it seemed that things might finally be turning around for the better. Robert F. Kennedy had just entered the presidential race opposing the war. There was a brewing sense of hope that a Kennedy presidency would be restored five years after the death of JFK.

Little did America suspect that the era known as “Camelot” was not to rise again. On the contrary, it was about to come to an abrupt, ironic, tragic, and bloody end.

Over the course of just five short days, we watched in shock as President Lyndon B. Johnson stepped aside and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was brutally murdered. We saw race riots erupt in the streets of our cities, and wondered if the whole world just might burn. We heard one of the most stirring pleas for peace and unity ever spoken by any politician when Robert F. Kennedy delivered the news of Dr. King’s assassination in the heart of an Indianapolis ghetto.

Looking back with the hindsight of history, we can now fully comprehend the importance of this pivotal moment. Those who lived through it will never be able to shake the memory. For for the ones who weren’t old enough to remember or had not been born yet, the events of that week still fascinate, even when experienced secondhand through books or grainy old news footage.

It’s a tale of stunning upsets, unimaginable horrors and stark contrasts: of presidents and peace, of war and love, of confusion and clarity, of Kennedys and Kings. Of pain which cannot forget – even after forty years.

LBJ GETS OUT OF THE WAY

The first jolt came on March 31, President Lyndon B. Johnson stunned the nation with the surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election to the presidency in 1968.

Appearing on TV at 9 p.m. that evening, LBJ first announced that he was taking steps to limit the war in Vietnam. He outlined his plan at some length; then, in what seemed almost an afterthought, dropped this unexpected bombshell:

“Fifty-two months and 10 days ago, in a moment of tragedy and trauma, the duties of this office fell upon me. I asked then for your help and God’s, that we might continue America on its course, binding up our wounds, healing our history, moving forward in new unity, to clear the American agenda and to keep the American commitment for all of our people.

United we have kept that commitment. United we have enlarged that commitment.

Through all time to come, I think America will be a stronger nation, a more just society, and a land of greater opportunity and fulfillment because of what we have all done together in these years of unparalleled achievement.

Our reward will come in the life of freedom, peace, and hope that our children will enjoy through ages ahead.

What we won when all of our people united just must not now be lost in suspicion, distrust, selfishness, and politics among any of our people.

Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year.

With America’s sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office–the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”

LBJ's address to the nation, March 31, 1968

President Johnson addresses the nation on television – March 31, 1968 

At that exact moment, Kennedy (who had just announced his intention to run for the presidency two weeks earlier) was coming in for a landing at La Guardia airport. The New York State Democratic chairman, John Burns, raced aboard the plane and breathlessly told Kennedy, “The president is not going to run.”

Kennedy just stared at him. “You’re kidding,” he said.

On the drive in from the airport, RFK seemed lost in thought. Finally, he said, “I wonder if he (LBJ) would have done this if I hadn’t come in.”

MLK ASSASSINATED

Bobby wouldn’t have much time to ponder Johnson’s motivations. While on the campaign trail four days later — again on an airplane — he recieved word that Martin Luther King had just been shot and killed by a sniper in Memphis.

Kennedy “sagged. His eyes went blank,” said New York Times reporter Johnny Apple, who delivered the news to RFK.

By the time Bobby arrived in Indianapolis, King had been reported dead. Fearing a race riot, the chief of police advised Kennedy to cancel his scheduled appearance in a mostly black neighborhood. Ignoring the warnings, RFK arrived at the speech site – a wind-blown lot surrounded by tenements – in his brother’s old overcoat with the collar turned up.

About a thousand people were gathered there, rallying and cheering for Bobby with all the usual excitment generated at his campaign stops. The crowd awaited his speech, happily oblivious to the news that Dr. King had been shot down. 

Throwing out his prepared remarks, Bobby pulled from his pocket a crumpled piece of paper with his own hastily scribbled notes and began to speak in quiet, reverent tones, his voice occasionally cracking with nervous emotion:

“Ladies and Gentlemen – I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because…

I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

(Audible gasps and cries of “No! No!” can be heard from the crowd)

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.

For those of you who are black – considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible – you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

 

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

(Interrupted by applause)

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love – a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

(Interrupted by applause)

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much.”

 
Listen to the entire speech 6:12

The murder of MLK, Lorraine motel, Memphis
(The murder of MLK. Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN. April 4, 1968.) 

PAIN WHICH CANNOT FORGET

Late that night, a sleepless, restless Kennedy was seen wandering the halls of his hotel alone. At 3 a.m., he knocked on the door of Joan Braden, an old friend who had also worked on JFK’s 1960 campaign. Bobby confided to her the true source of his agony.

“Joanie,” he said, “that could have been me.”

Two months later to the day Robert Kennedy was gunned down during a celebration following his victory in the California primary, June 4, 1968. He would die 26 hours later.

While it would be easy to look back after 40 years and dwell on 1968’s sorrows, its’ crippling series of tragedies, perhaps we should instead remember and take to heart Bobby Kennedy’s advice:

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

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!

And 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!!”

 

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final sermon.

 Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968

 

 

Copyright RFKJrforPresident.com

14 Comments

Filed under election 2008, JFK, John F. Kennedy, lady bird johnson, LBJ, lyndon b. johnson, politics, president kennedy, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, the kennedys, Uncategorized

Kerry Kennedy on “Being Catholic Now”

Kerry Kennedy with her mom, Ethel Kennedy, at a recent benefit for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Riverkeeper

Kerry with her mom Ethel Kennedy at a recent benefit for the Riverkeeper organization, headed by Kerrys brother, Bobby Kennedy, Jr.)

Kerry Kennedy, the seventh child of Robert F. Kennedy and a human rights lawyer, spoke to Boston Globe religion reporter Michael Paulson about her new book, “Being Catholic Now.” The interview took place Aug. 22 in Hyannis Port. Below is an edited transcript of the interview:

Q&A WITH KERRY KENNEDY

Q: What inspired this?
A: So, what happened is that I was feeling conflicted because my Catholicism is so deeply important to me — it was my sense of connection to the almighty, to humanity, to my heritage, my upbringing. And my Catholicism informed my view of the world, and the work that I do every day on social justice issues. And yet, so often when I went to church, I was confronted with words and symbols that were anathema to my values. I was in a, for many years, in a northern Virginia parish which didn’t allow girls as altar servers, and in which every Sunday, in the midst of horrendous poverty, and living in a world where a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, the only thing we seemed to be praying for was that women would stop having abortions, and it just didn’t seem right. And then there was the whole pedophile scandal, and the mishandling of that by the bishops. So this was all sort of brewing. It wasn’t something that I was very conscious of, or focused on, particularly, but at a certain point I thought, I need to resolve this issue. And I looked at my three daughters, and the way I was raising them, and I wanted them to have this tremendous gift of faith that I really do view as a gift, but I also want to feel comfortable with saying they ought to be catholic. So I thought it was time to take some time and reflect more deeply on these issues.

Q: This was recently, that a parish allowed no girl altar servers?
A: This is now. There is only two bishops in the country which did not allow girls as altar servers, and one of them is northern Virginia.

Q: I have a sense of you parents as very devotional. Where does your Catholicism come from? What role did it play in your upbringing?
A: Well, it was central to my upbringing. I mean, we woke up in the morning and we were down on our knees consecrating the day to Lord Jesus. Then we’d go down for breakfast, and we’d say prayers before breakfast. Then we’d finish breakfast, we’d say prayers after breakfast. Prayers before and after lunch. Prayers before and after dinner. Read the Bible after dinner out loud. And then before bed spend about 20 minutes with the entire family saying prayers together. Church every Sunday. After my father died, we went to church for a long time every day, and then every other day during the summer. And we said prayers in between those times. Prayers for things, to St. Anthony to help find something that was lost. Prayers to St. Christopher when we got on a boat or in a car or in a plane to go someplace. There were St. Christopher medals around all of our necks. There were statues of Our Mother, and in every room of our house were a cross, the Bible, and then all sorts of religious books. And in the dining room, in the kitchen, and on every single bedside in my mother’s house, there is not one but two Mass schedules. So this is very present. And Bobby (Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) probably told you this, but his entire bedroom was decorated with the life of St. Francis, with a book that had been cut out and had been framed — the life of St. Francis. So it was very, very present.

Q: Was this from your mother or your father?
A: Both. You know, my father thought about being a priest. And my mother — and I think everyone who spends 12 years in Catholic school thinks about being a nun — actually more than that because she went to Manhattanville College as well. My mother goes — she’s a daily communicant. So I think on both sides.

Q: What was your relationship to Catholicism as you grew up?
A: I went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart for four years. It was interesting to me because, in a family where men were clearly favored over women, this was an atmosphere, a world, run by strong, determined, smart women in leadership, who had high expectations of the girls, and this tremendous sense of love and commitment to the wider world. We had a nun — the head of the order there, was the reverend mother, was called mother Mouton, and she was this wonderful French woman, and there was a rule at Sacred Heart that you weren’t allowed to talk in the halls, and I was forever talking in the hall and always being sent to her, and she always did the same thing, which was that she would wrap her arm around me, give me a lollipop, and said, ‘Jesus loves you, no matter how you misbehave,’ which was pretty wonderful, and then she would talk about the war in Vietnam. And it was a very different form of discipline and sort of vision of the world, and one that was full of love and outrage at injustice, and that had a great influence on me. This was fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grade, and then I went to Putney School in Vermont.

Q: Did you go to a Catholic college?
A: No, I went to Brown and then I went to Boston College Law School.

Q: And did you continue, once you were not living at home, practicing Catholicism?
A: No, when I was in high school I went to Mass every once in a while, and certainly anytime I was at home, but on my own, every once in a while. My roommate in high school was also very, came from a very traditional Catholic family, so we would go off together to church on occasion. And then when I was in college, I went through confirmation, and then when I got married I really went to church every Sunday, and have basically done that since then, which was 1990, when I was 30.

Q: And why did you return?
A: I returned because I wanted to have a stronger relationship with God, and a deeper sense of spirituality.

Q: And did you find that at church?
A: Sometimes. As I say, I was conflicted, and increasingly conflicted, because sometimes I would leave church feeling elated, and sometimes I would leave church feeling very angry and frustrated by the insensitivity to social justice issues that to me are part and parcel of Catholicism, of our faith. On the other hand, that was sort of what was happening on the home front, but my work is in international human rights, so I was in Poland at the height of the Solidarity movement and witnessed the tremendous influence of the Catholic church giving refuge to Solidarity activists, and encouragement, and the tremendous role of the pope in encouraging that movement for freedom. And then I worked in El Salvador and Guatemala, Mexico, all of these places during the 80s when there was so much violence, and when the church again was just this tremendous sanctuary, and where Archbishop Romero, for instance, really led, was the spiritual force behind so much of the movement for freedom. And again, in Korea, South Korea, where the combination of the Catholic church and other Christian churches gave sanctuary, strength to the democracy movement there. And a few years ago, 2003, I went to Liberia. I have to tell you, virtually every country I’ve gone to, the Catholic church is on the cutting edge of social change. Really extraordinary. And I can tell you so many stories about that. But in Liberia, the Catholics account for about 7 percent of that population, and during the 14 year civil war, when Charles Taylor was the dictator, the Catholic church was the only institution that kept schools open and kept hospitals open. And this is in a country that is maybe 70 percent Methodists, and they had a lot of missionaries there, but they weren’t able to keep those institutions open, and the government institutions closed down, but the Catholics kept them open, and so it has just played this enormously important role. And I saw the, you know, I went to the Catholic church program, which was rehabilitating child soldiers, and another Catholic church program, this was so incredibly moving, where they were bringing together people from two communities who had basically slaughtered each another. And that, and the Catholic church there also started their peace and justice program on the Catholic radio station, (which) was really the only voice of opposition throughout the Taylor regime, and the fellow who ran it was a guy called Kofi Woods, he was, because of his work, on those issues, with the Catholic church. He was picked up by the minister of justice and his three thugs during the Doe regime and tortured and left to rot in a prison cell, and then when the Taylor regime came into power…that minister of justice and those three thugs were picked up by Taylor, and thrown into the same prison cell he had been in. And he (Woods) had been freed, and he was a lawyer, and went to visit them, and he said, ‘I’ve come to see if you’ve been mistreated,’ and he said, ‘I will take your case for free,’ because there is no lawyer in the country who would defend them. So he went to defend his own torturers, and that was his sense of faith. So for me, I was witnessing the mighty spirit, and the tremendous capacity of this institution which was so much a part of my history, and my family, and my sense of spirituality and my vision of social justice in the world, and then coming back and hearing bishops who were protecting their turf instead of protecting children and playing three-card monte with the pedophile priests and blaming it on people who are gay. So it was important to me to resolve that.

Q: So when the sex abuse crisis exploded, were you surprised?
A: I guess I wasn’t so surprised that it was going on, because I think so many of us knew, or had heard stories, or had friends who that had happened to. The thing that was surprising to me in the sex abuse scandal was not that children were being abused by priests, but that the bishops were protecting them, and that the bishops were refusing to take responsibility for their own failure to protect. I think that was surprising and enormously disappointing and disturbing. But the thing that I came to realize in writing this book is that the church is not the candles and the robes and the beautiful cathedrals, and it’s not the bishops and what they do or don’t do, or the proclamations that come down from the Vatican on occasion, but it’s all of us. That’s the meaning of Catholicism — universal — and there are a billion Catholics. So it’s the community, a Catholicism based on the idea that we should love God and we should love one another. So, as Robert Drinan in this book pointed out, the pope apologized for 92 things that the Catholic church had done wrong, and he (Drinan) said, ‘These are fallible people and I expect them to do fallible things in the future as well.’ And so I think that that is a source of comfort for me, to view it sort of in that way, that we’re all fallible, and we’ll all make mistakes, but that this is an important institution to be part of.

Q: Did you ever toy with leaving the church?
A: No. Not precisely. There was a time, as I said, in between high school and when I got married, I guess, where it just wasn’t very central to my life, the church itself. But I was still always praying. So it was not, there wasn’t a time when I said, OK, I’m not going to be Catholic anymore. I think that’s a very, very, very difficult thing to do.

Q: Are you raising your daughters in the church?
A: Yeah, and I teach CCD at our local church, St. Patrick’s in Armonk, NY.

Q: You go to Mass?
A: Yeah.

Q: When did you start working on this project?
A: In November 2005.

Q: You could have written a memoir or something more journalistic. How did you think, I’m going to go talk to other people?
A: Well there were two ways that I thought about that. One is I wrote another book, called Speak Truth to Power, and that is interviews with human rights defenders around the world, and I greatly enjoyed that and I learned a lot from talking to other people, and so that’s why I chose to approach it in this particular way.

Q: Do you think you did it because you hungered to do another book, or was there something personally you were hoping to get?
A: I was trying to resolve that issue, of how do people who disagree with what the institutional church is saying to them look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘I am a Catholic.’ And what I found is that absolutely everybody disagrees with the church. The cardinals disagree with the church, and the nuns and the priests, and even Tom Monaghan disagrees with the church, so everybody has a disagreement, which is interesting to me. It’s just not a monolith at all. It’s an enormous organism with a lot of moving parts and people with strong opinions and I think that that’s good. I also think that Catholicism is inherently about contradiction. So much of the New Testament is about Christ arguing with the Pharisees and with the scribes and with the Jewish leaders of the day, and as Pope Benedict said, it’s a quest for the truth. And so if you’re going to have a quest for the truth, you’re going to have a lot of questioning of authority. And we’re taught to have obedience to authority, but we’re also taught to revere saints, so many of whom were burnt at the stake or martyred because they questioned authority. And then we are told that Christ has died but Christ is coming again. And when Catholics say I don’t understand this, how can this really be transformed into the blood of Christ, is this really the body of Christ that we are eating now, they are told, ‘That’s the mystery,’ and ‘Go in peace,’ and that’s sort of it. And so I think that, in a way, I think it’s good, because it prepares us to deal with so many other parts of life, where there are conflicting emotions. At the moment of greatest love, there is greatest fear, and at the moment of enormous repression, there is resistance, and therefore a chance at revolutionary change. And so I think our lives are full of contradictions.

Q: How did you come up with the list of who you wanted to talk to?
A: Well, I wanted a diversity of people, from a lot of different professions, so there’s historians and doctors and comedians, political commentators and politicians, and so a diversity of professions. And I wanted people who are known to have a strong intellectual sensibility on some issue, not necessarily on this one, and then I wanted a mix of men and women.

Q: Were most of them people you already knew?
A: It was a combination, and there’s also people who are conservative, from the conservative side of the church, and more progressive side of the church, and then there are also Democrats and Republicans, you know, Bill O’Reilly to Bill Maher.

Q: Did anybody turn you down?
A: One person.

Q: Do you want to tell me who?
A: No.

Q: And how did people respond when you said, ‘I want to explore with you how you relate to this faith’?
A: They were very open about it, and enthusiastic about talking about it, and it was kind of great, because a lot of the people I talked to are used to interviews — you must find this as well — but they’re not used to interviews about this. And so there’s a kind of raw honesty that you get in discussing this subject with people who don’t discuss it professionally, and insight that you might not otherwise get. And a lot of them were very funny, and wonderful. Nancy Pelosi saying, ‘My mother always wanted me to be a nun,’ and then I said, ‘But did you want to be a nun?’ and she said, ‘No, I wanted to be a priest.’ And Susan Sarandon, who said that during her first days at Catholic school, she was told that she had an overabundance of original sin. And Bill Maher, who is so, basically he said ‘I’m on a mission, I’ve been given this gift, to stop organized religion.’ He’s very funny, in talking about the number of people who God slaughtered in the Old Testament, Sodom and Gomorrah alone…Some of it is kind of funny and ridiculous like that, and then a lot of it was very deep. One of the people who I was surprised by in my interview was Andrew Sullivan, because I disagree with almost everything he’s ever said or written politically, and yet, on this subject, he was so deep and passionate and reflective — it was very, very interesting to me, about what it means to be a devoted Catholic and gay and HIV-positive, and how he grapples with that. And then some of them were deeply moving. Gabriel Byrne talking about being a victim of pedophilia when he was a child, and how he attempted to grapple with that, and Danny McNevin, talking about the same issue, and then of course Anne Burke who led the independent audit committee was fascinating about her frustration with the bishops in trying to get them to take responsibility for the crisis, and yet how that experience really deepened her faith.

Q: How did you choose Cardinal McCarrick?
A: I have always deeply admired him, and it was actually kind of interesting, because I think he’s mentioned in four different interviews in my book as somebody who others admired — John Sweeney and E.J. Dionne and Andrew Sullivan. So there you go — for Cardinal McCarrick to be admired by that diversity of people is pretty extraordinary. So I went to talk to him and you know what’s amazing is he said that he started school in a classroom where they had three kids to a bench and 70 kids in his class — I think that was first grade or kindergarten — can you imagine? How — I mean, if you spend even five minutes with six year olds, trying to imagine organizing 70 of them, it’s pretty incredible.

Q: What surprised you?
A: There were pleasant surprises, moments of laughter in interviews that were unexpected, and moments of insight, for instance, talking to Andrew Sullivan as I just mentioned, or when Bob Drinan was talking about abortion rights, and in the midst of this discussion he was having with me, we were in his office and the phone started to ring, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s the pope, telling me to shut up.’ And so that was kind of funny. And different things were sort of wonderful. Donna Brazile…told a very, very moving story about her wanting as a child, knowing as a child, that she’d grow up to be a priest, and that in her youngest years the black kids, the black families had to stay in the back of the church, and then after Martin Luther King died they could move more and more forward, and then she, at a certain point, would get to the church, she’d make sure she was in the front row, because she had to see what the priest was going to do, because she was going to be a priest, and she had to know what he was doing up there. And how when he would preach, she would listen to what he’d say, and then go back and read the Bible passage and see if she agreed with him or not, and come back and ask him questions. A very active, involved and engaged child. And when her mother asked her in passing one day what she was going to do, and she mentioned she was going to be a priest, (she learned) to her shock, that women couldn’t be priests, it’s just not possible…So there were things like that, that were very moving. And again, I think Danny McNevin’s story about the impact of being a victim of pedophilia, on him and his family, is deeply moving, and his quest to seek justice, and how difficult that has been.

Q: So how did all this affect your faith?
A: You know, it deepened it tremendously. And the sense of spirituality, I think primarily because I started thinking about it. You’re writing a book about something, you start thinking about it a lot more, and talking to people about it a lot more, and learning about it, and that has been a wonderful experience. I also happen to belong to a fantastic parish in Armonk, New York, and I have a great, great, great, great pastor, who is always quoting Dorothy Day, and puts a picture of Gandhi with a halo over his head on the altar.

Q: You say it deepened your faith but also you were confronted by so much injury — these girls who wanted to be priests, these boys who were abused, the gay man — over and over again you ran into people who have conflict with the church in some way. How do you think about that?
A: I think that the church has done enormous harm over the years, and continues to do enormous harm to people in different ways. The institutional church does that. But that is separate and apart from my sense of connection to the Almighty, when I pray. And that is something that I think is part of the mission of being a Catholic is to expose those areas of injustice, and try to confront them, and I hope through this book I have advanced that in some small way.

Q: What is your hope that readers will take away from this?
A: I hope that they’ll feel like they’re not alone…I hope that people will feel that there are a lot of others out there who are grappling with the same issues: Should I raise my children Catholic? What does that mean? Am I a good Catholic? What does it mean to be a good Catholic today? If I’m not following the way I was taught as a child, or that my parents approached the religion, does that mean that I’m somehow missing something, or that I’m bad? And I hope also that others might feel a sense that the essence, the goodness of Catholicism, of that relationship with God, of that sense of love, can be embraced without embracing the parts of the institutional church which are anathema to your values, to one’s values.

Q: You work in the human rights world, you live in the Democratic political orbit, do you find that you have to defend being Catholic?
A: Sometimes, yes. I mean, people aren’t openly aggressive about it, but there is, yes, skepticism, and sort of, sometimes a look of confusion.

Q: How do you think being a Kennedy affects your relationship to the Catholic Church?
A: Traditionally there was a very strong one, I think, in my grandparents era, and in my parents. I don’t have a particular relationship with the hierarchy of the church. I have wonderfully important relationships with people who are at different stages of that hierarchy — some higher and some lower, but it’s not an institutional relationship. But I’m also not in political office, so it’s just a little bit different.

2 Comments

Filed under media, politics, president kennedy, religion, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, st. francis, the kennedys, Uncategorized

Kennedy Has A Few Choice Words for Gov. Palin

RFK Jr.

RFK Jr.

 

GOVERNOR PALIN’S READING LIST

By Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Published today at the Huffington Post

Fascist writer Westbrook Pegler, an avowed racist who Sarah Palin approvingly quoted in her acceptance speech for the moral superiority of small town values, expressed his fervent hope about my father, Robert F. Kennedy, as he contemplated his own run for the presidency in 1965, that “some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies.”

It might be worth asking Governor Palin for a tally of the other favorites from her reading list.

4 Comments

Filed under barack obama, election 2008, JFK, John F. Kennedy, media, politics, president kennedy, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, the kennedys, Uncategorized

Remembering “Citizen Ed” Guthman: He Showed Us How It’s Done

Ed Guthman 1919-2008

Ed Guthman 1919-2008

 “INNOCENT PEOPLE WERE TERRIFIED BY THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT”

- ED GUTHMAN, 1998 

From accused communists to Freedom Riders to the Branch Davidians, Guthman protected and defended their rights

The late Ed Guthman,  who died last Sunday at the age of 89, was a rare bird the likes of which we may never see again in the world of American journalism. He was far more than just a journalist, he was an activist- using the power of his pen to bring our attention to society’s ills. His hard-hitting investigative pieces often turned up evidence which cleared the wrongly accused – and his gift of wordsmithing could then argue a persuasive case in defense of the so-called “public enemy” – eventually swaying the tide of opinion in the accused’s favor.

In short, he helped us all to see just how wrong we usually were about things.

Whereas the mainstream media gold-diggers of today love to blindly pile on any celebrity or public servant suspected of wrongdoing and rip their reputations to shreds, Guthman possessed that now-rare quality called empathy. He understood well how lives could be destroyed, families broken and spirits crushed by simple misunderstandings, or even by deliberate disinformation campaigns. Guthman held dear every Americans’ right to privacy, to express themselves freely, and their right to be innocent until (gasp!) actually proven guilty. What a concept.

Guthman didn’t just spend his life defending the famous — in fact, most of the people he helped were ordinary folks you’ve probably never heard of — but he had this uncanny way of always choosing the most unpopular person or cause in the room and taking a stand for their right to an honest, competent defense. Whether it was his investigative series which cleared the name of accused communist Melvin Rader during the 1950’s “red scare,” fighting for the rights of African-Americans while serving in attorney general Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department in the early `60s, or standing up for the Branch Davidians (at a time when it was quite unfashionable to do so) in the 1990s, Ed Guthman defended them one and all.

He knew about media witch-hunts, allright. As a byproduct of post-WWII America, he watched (no doubt in utter horror) as the private lives and political beliefs of so many innocent Americans were flung open to public scrutiny and ridicule. He saw names and careers dragged through the mud, sometimes with little or no evidence other than Joe McCarthy’s finger pointed squarely at them. Commie-hunting was America’s favorite pastime in the 1940’s and 50’s, often preferable to baseball, Mom, and apple pie, and it seemed like everybody was getting into the act: neighbors snooped on neighbors, becoming amateur informants in the federal government’s seriously overreaching effort to round `em all up. Few dared to question, lest they themselves wind up being accused of sleeping with the enemy, too.

Enter Ed Guthman, a 29 year-old reporter for the Seattle Timesin 1948. Having returned from the war (he was highly decorated, having received both the Purple Heart and the Silver Star), young Guthman was certainly eager for a good story – and boy, did he get it in the case of Melvin Rader. 

Rader, a mild-mannered University of Washington philosophy professor, had been swept up in the dragnet, accused of being a Red. A paid government witness told a state legislative committee that Rader had attended a secret communist training school in New York state in 1938. In fact, Rader had been with his family at a forest camp near Granite Falls.

Guthman, with the support of his editor and publisher, tracked down information corroborating Rader’s account, exposing the accusations as groundless, and exonerated the professor. His work earned the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished national reporting and was announced by Dwight D. Eisenhower, then president of Columbia University, which hands out the award. It was The Times’ first Pulitzer.

While most journalists toil for a lifetime towards one day achieving that most coveted of awards, for Ed Guthman, winning the Pulitzer Prize was only the beginning of what would be a very long and distinguished career. At age 29, this man was just getting warmed up.

Mr. Guthman left the Seattle Timesin 1961 to work for Robert Kennedy when he was attorney general and then as senator from New York, from 1961 to 1965. Mr. Guthman drew on those experiences to write or co-edit four books about Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968. (Guthman was at the Ambassador Hotel that fateful night and had spoken to Bobby just minutes before shots rang out.)

Last year, Kennedy’s brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy, wrote a letter honoring Mr. Guthman for a lifetime-achievement award Mr. Guthman received in Los Angeles. “In those early days at the Justice Department, on Bobby’s Senate campaign, and later at the RFK Memorial, you’ve always been there with your good judgment, unflappable presence and trademark smile.”

THE MAN WHO DEFENDED PUBLIC ENEMIES BECOMES PUBLIC ENEMY #3

Mr. Guthman’s association with the Kennedys also helped land him on President Nixon’s infamous “enemies list.” (Hey, for that alone, the guy deserves a standing ovation.) They say you can always measure the quality of a man by his enemies, and earning the #3 spot on Nixon’s enemies list speaks for itself, does it not?

Colson’s now-infamous memo described Guthman as “a highly sophisticated hatchetman against us in `68,” and menacingly added, “it is time we give him the message.”

Well, things didn’t work out quite the way Nixon and his ratfuckers had planned. Guthman was instrumental in exposing the Watergate scandal over the next few years, and this time it was Nixon who “got the message” when his presidency ended in disgrace. Score one for Public Enemy #3.

Guthman got on the wrong side of another president’s administration – a Democratic one this time – in 1993 when he expressed his outrage at the Justice Department (yes, the same Justice Dept. where he once served with Kennedy, which had somehow lost its’ moral compass along the way) for launching a military-style raid on the Branch Davidian church at Waco, Texas.

83 innocent men, women, and children died in the flames of a church set ablaze by incendiary devices which, as it turned out, had been employed against them by federal agents. This sort of thing doesn’t happen in my America, Guthman said, and he called attorney general Janet Reno on the carpet publicly for having the unmitigated gall to proclaim herself a devotee’ of Robert Kennedy’s. (He was joined by another brave stalwart of Kennedy’s Justice Dept., Ramsey Clark, who also served as attorney general under President Lyndon B. Johnson). Sorry, Mrs. Reno, they bluntly informed her, but Bobby would never torch a church.

In 1993, Guthman was named to a federal panel reviewing the government’s role in the deadly raid on David Koresh’s “compound” (media-speak for offbeat churches these days). The panel concluded that top officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal agency that conducted the initial action, had been negligent in overseeing the operation.

“…OF THE GOOD GUYS OF AMERICAN JOURNALISM, ED GUTHMAN IS ON THE FRONT PAGE.”

 – TOM BROKAW

Guthman’s many amazing true life dramas (a Pulitzer waiting to happen for any journalist who might attempt the Herculean task of writing his biography) and accomplishments are far too numerous to list here. We can only give you a few snippets, as we did in his obituary earlier this week, and encourage our readers to do a bit of homework on their own. Take some time to get to know Ed Guthman, and you’ll surely wonder why his name wasn’t a household word. But his name wascertainly well-known around schools of journalism, and that’s where you’ll find, to this very day, another crop of aspiring writers who benefited from Guthman’s mentor-ship.

He taught for many years at USC’s Annenberg School, influencing the minds of countless young reporters, who have since gone out into this dog-eat-dog world armed with the knowledge – and above all else, the empathy  that Guthman always practised in his own craft. He developed in them a thirst for truth, and taught them how to dig until they found it. Then, he inspired in them the courage to publish that truth and stand by it, no matter what the consequences.

Bryce Nelson, a colleague of Guthman’s at both the L.A. Times and at USC, said, “Ed Guthman was a hard-hitting investigative reporter, an editor who believed strongly in the idea of service to his country and his community. … He was a very warm man of great integrity who was totally committed to protecting each American’s rights to freedom of speech and the press guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Well said, and very true indeed. But of all the tributes to Ed Guthman I’ve heard and read this past week, none can compare to what Tom Brokaw wrote of him a decade ago in his bestselling 1998 book The Greatest Generation, in which Guthman was profiled. Brokaw said: “In any accounting of the good guys of American journalism, Ed Guthman is on the front page…I will always think of him as “Citizen Ed”…”

It seems fitting somehow to conclude this remembrance of Ed Guthman not with my words, or even those of a famous television journalist like Brokaw. Perhaps instead you’d like to read the sentiments of one of those young journalists who rose up, as it were, under Professor Guthman’s wing.

Just this week, I exchanged correspondence with a writer named Michael Stusser, who reads this blog regularly and who posted a comment about Ed Guthman here shortly after his passing. His article about working with Ed (published in Guthman’s old haunt, the Seattle Times), is one of the best tributes to the man I’ve read anywhere. With Mr. Stusser’s kind permission, his original story is reprinted below. Enjoy!

A LIFETIME OF ADVICE, CAREFULLY SCRIPTED WITH A RED PEN

Special to The Seattle Times

Over the years, I searched for a mentor like most folks look for deals on eBay. I clung to Hunter S. Thompson’s every drunken move when he showed up comatose at the Berkeley campus. After co-authoring the “Doonesbury Game” with Garry Trudeau, I begged him to get his nose out of his own book and blurb mine (he passed, saying he was too busy). And for several years I worked under Ralph Nader, hoping that some of his mad civic brilliance might rub off on me, only to find the consumer advocate goes through organizations, interns and ideas faster than Diddy changes nicknames.

Turns out there are two types of mentors in this world: ones you wish for, and ones who actually turn out to be invaluable advisers. Ed Guthman was the latter.

I first met Ed in 1989 as a staff writer for the Commission to Draft an Ethics Code for the Los Angeles city government. Superlawyer Geoff Cowan had been appointed to put together a tough new ethics package after Mayor Tom Bradley — and pretty much everyone else in City Hall — had been using the legislative branch to remodel their houses and buy Ferraris. Cowan’s genius was in recruiting experts in various fields to help his staff come up with the best regulations possible. If you ever wanted something hard-hitting, honest, and well-researched, the guy you brought in was journalist Ed Guthman.

In 1989, I was a 25-year-old graduate of the Coro Foundation with no idea where to begin writing a code of ethics, much less my own moral code. Ed cleared that notion up in a hurry. “Ya get out there, talk to everyone you can, and sort the details out later. Now let me see your interview list.” My list — made up on the spot — had the mayor, his chief of staff, and a couple of shady city council members I’d read about in the paper.

Well, these people were fine and dandy for background, according to Guthman, but only to cover yourself once City Hall found out how tough the new rules were going to be. Ed had our staff meet with the most corrupt lobbyists, real-estate tycoons and sleazy schmoozers in California, Republican or Democrat, in order to discover how the game was really played. Only then could you find a way to close revolving-door loopholes, “gift exchanges” and pay-for-play schemes being used by those in the know. Turns out, people love to talk, and better yet, will actually answer pretty much anything you ask them. Ed knew that, I didn’t.

It wasn’t until almost six months working with Ed that I found out — from my mother (who had watched him win a Pulitzer Prize at The Seattle Times) — about his amazing credentials. Not only did he stand up against McCarthyism in the 1950s (saving an innocent professor’s career), but Captain Guthman was a decorated veteran (yes, a Purple Heart and, though he’d never show it to you, a Silver Star), RFK’s press secretary at the Justice Department, and No. 3 on Nixon’s list of enemies!

In addition to a wonderful social conscience, Ed had a warm heart, a huge laugh (always a pleasant surprise when dealing with an intimidating and gruff fellow) and a work ethic that would make an over-caffeinated mule look lazy. Unless you’re dealing with Donald Trump clichés, professional wisdom often needs to be culled over time. Just once, I longed for Ed to say, “Son, let me tell ya how we broke the Watergate story wide open.” But the man was too modest to tell tales of yore or give straight-on advice, so you had to dig for it.

Show him your work and ask for feedback, and he’d happily provide it, red pen and all.

One rule I learned from Ed was that the moment you’d finished your research and assumed the job was done was precisely the time to make another round of calls. There was always someone you’d forgotten to talk to, an item that needed clarification, or one more line of questioning that would surely arise after sitting on the info for a night and pondering the big picture.

Our Los Angeles ethics code was eventually packaged into a successful citizen’s initiative, leading to the creation of a new watchdog agency. Ed served a term as president and was a board member on the committee from 1991-98. For Ed, the road was a rocky one; he had no patience for the infighting from council members. Luckily, he had another gig to distract him, teaching students at USC how to be journalists with integrity and a backbone.

When I moved back to Seattle, where Ed was born and raised, I picked his brain about whom I should meet with. “Everyone,” was his response, and rather than give me names and numbers from a Rolodex, he spouted off the top dozen or so movers and shakers in the community. “Just call ‘em up, tell them you want to talk about what’s going on, and go from there.”

Could I drop his name? “Sure, if you think that’s really going to help.” It did.

I soon found work on another citizen’s initiative, attempting to create a Seattle Commons — sort of a central park funded by taxpayers. I knew the reasons I supported the plan (green space, anyone?), but didn’t quite have a hook for our publicity campaign.

“Go walk the damn thing,” was Ed’s advice. “Have a look around, talk to a few people, see what’s there now, then convince other citizens to do the same.” The suggestion was classic Ed: simple, based on first-person investigation, and not reliant on spin or politics.

A few months back I met a young salesman at the Apple store. He recently asked me to look over a Web site he had created for the Seattle Symphony. “Where’s the information about the musician’s backgrounds?” I heard myself bark. “And make some calls to the two tenors who are still alive or somebody who’ll endorse the damn thing!”

This kid may not be seeking out a mentor, but, thanks to Guthman, it looks like he’s got one.

Edwin O. Guthman passed away last weekend at the age of 89, but his influence on me — and perhaps the next generation — is everlasting.

Michael A. Stusser is a Seattle-based writer, and author of “The Dead Guy Interviews: Conversations with 45 of the Most Celebrated, Notorious and Deceased Personalities in History” (Penguin).

 

Copyright RFKJrForPresident.com. Stusser’s article is copyright 2008, The Seattle Times Company.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under jackie kennedy, JFK, JFK Jr., John F. Kennedy, john f. kennedy jr., lady bird johnson, LBJ, lyndon b. johnson, media, politics, president kennedy, RFK, robert f. kennedy, senator robert kennedy, the kennedys

Ed Guthman (1919-2008)

* It saddens us greatly to report the passing of a true American patriot – Ed Guthman – at the age of 89.

Ed Guthman and Robert F. Kennedy

Ed Guthman and Robert F. Kennedy

 ED GUTHMAN (1919-2008)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Edwin O. Guthman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was on the infamous “enemies list” prepared by aides of President Richard Nixon and who served as press secretary to Robert F. Kennedy, has died at 89.

Guthman, who had a rare disease called amyloidosis, died Sunday at his Pacific Palisades home, said Bryce Nelson, a family spokesman.

“Ed Guthman was not only a great friend, but a great journalist,” Paul Conrad, a longtime political cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times, said Monday. “He was the only person I ever tore up a cartoon for.”

Guthman was the Los Angeles Times’ national editor from 1965 to 1977, then served for a decade as editorial page editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1950 for his stories in The Seattle Times on the Washington Legislature’s Un-American Activities Committee. His reporting cleared a University of Washington professor of allegations that he was a Communist supporter.

Guthman was press secretary for Attorney General and later Sen. Robert F. Kennedy from 1961 to ’65.

A Kennedy loyalist in his private life, Guthman wrote or edited four books about Kennedy. And he always wore a tie clip that President John Kennedy had given him, according to the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

The Los Angeles Times’ obituary of Guthman provided more details of his work with RFK:

In “We Band of Brothers,” Guthman’s 1971 memoir of his years with
Kennedy, he made no effort to hide his affection for Kennedy,
portraying him as a stalwart friend, an impassioned advocate for civil
rights and a demanding boss, whose wry humor brought levity to many
grim moments.

Guthman recounted the time that he was in Oxford, Miss., with other
Justice Department officials in 1962 when rioting broke out on the eve
of James Meredith’s enrollment as the first black student at the
University of Mississippi.

A hate-filled mob armed with rocks, chunks of concrete and guns was
attacking a force of about 300 federal marshals, who were under orders
not to fire their pistols at the crowd. The marshals sustained heavy
injuries while Guthman and the other Justice Department officials
watched in agony.

That night, Guthman called Kennedy in Washington to report on the
situation. “How’s it going down there?” Kennedy asked, to which the
aide replied, “Pretty rough. It’s getting like the Alamo.” After a
pause, Kennedy quipped, “Well, you know what happened to those guys,
don’t you?”

The president sent in the Army to disperse the mob, and Meredith
walked up the university steps the next morning.

The exchange between Guthman and Kennedy was repeated in many
published accounts of the conflict as a classic example of the
camaraderie between the attorney general and his staff.

“The way I look at it, we were beleaguered and blood-spattered and he
knew it and worried for our safety. And yet when I think of Oxford,”
Guthman wrote, “this is what I remember first: the light remark that
raised our morale and helped us through the night.”

Guthman spent five years in Kennedy’s service, leaving in 1965 after
accepting an offer from Los Angeles Times Publisher Chandler to
oversee the paper’s national coverage.

Three years later, on the night of the 1968 California presidential
primary, Guthman spoke to Kennedy just before the candidate left his
room at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to make his victory
speech; he was shot moments later by Sirhan Sirhan.

Guthman rushed to the hospital, and when he returned to The Times
early the next morning, he sadly suggested that an obituary be
prepared. Kennedy died the next night.

Ed Guthman in more recent years

Ed Guthman in more recent years

In 1971, Guthman was the third name on a 20-name list of political opponents singled out for harassment in a memo sent from Nixon aide Charles Colson to aide John Dean.

The memo described Guthman, then national editor for the Times, as having been “a highly sophisticated hatchetman against us in ’68.”

He was a journalism professor and senior lecturer at the University of Southern California from 1987 until his retirement last year.

“He exemplifies the ultimate journalist. I’m successful because of what (he) taught me,” CNN anchor and USC alumna Kyra Phillips said during a tribute at the university last year.

Tom Brokaw praised Guthman at that tribute as one of the “greatest generation,” the USC Daily Trojan reported at the time. “I will always see Ed Guthman as citizen Ed Guthman,” Brokaw said.

In the 1990s, Guthman was a founding commissioner and a president of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

He also was one of three outside experts who reviewed — and harshly criticized — the 1993 federal standoff at the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, in which about 80 people died.

Born Aug. 11, 1919, in Seattle, Guthman attended the University of Washington and worked as a reporter for the Seattle Star before he was drafted in World War II. He served in North Africa and Italy, was wounded, and received the Purple Heart and the Silver Star.

Guthman is survived by three sons, a daughter and five grandchildren.

(This version DELETES an erroneous reference to amyloidosis being a blood disease.)

From the Associated Press.

2 Comments

Filed under jackie kennedy, JFK, JFK Jr., John F. Kennedy, john f. kennedy jr., lady bird johnson, LBJ, lyndon b. johnson, media, politics, president kennedy, religion, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, the kennedys, Uncategorized

RFK Honored at Democratic Convention

ROBERT F. KENNEDY MEMORIAL 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION IN DENVER

* Those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to make it to Denver for the DNC, here’s what you missed Wednesday. The Kennedy family, friends, and longtime supporters gathered at the Brown Palace Hotel to remember RFK and celebrate his legacy.

We bring you coverage of this star-studded event from local and national sources below. According to all accounts we’ve heard so far, RFK Jr. was the star of the show!

The New York Daily News certainly thought so…check out this glowing review:

Bobby Kennedy Jr. politely dodged questions about his political future now that Hillary Clinton won’t be vacating her U.S. Senate seat. But he gave such a rousing speech at a Denver benefit for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial on Wednesday that admirers urged him to run for something soon.

Building on the emotional appearance of Uncle Ted at the Democratic convention two days earlier, Kennedy departed from his usual environmental concerns to connect his father’s mission with the state of America today.

“When I was 13, I went on a trip to Europe with my father and mother,” he recalled. “We went to Czechoslovakia and Poland and Germany. We were greeted by hundreds of thousands of people, who came to hear an American politician. It wasn’t because [President Kennedy] had been martyred three years before. Even when Eisenhower went to Kabul and Tehran, he was met by thousands of Muslims who carried American flags.

“It took 230 years of discipline and restrained leadership by Republican and Democratic Presidents to build up a reservoir of love for the U.S. In the last seven years, through incompetence, we have drained those reservoirs dry.”

Kennedy went on to indict the Bush administration for “torture, suspending habeas corpus and eavesdropping on hundreds of thousands of people.”

Naturally, the call to arms was cheered by the Democratic crowd, who included New York Gov. David Patterson, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Rev. Al Sharpton, Fran Drescher, Aisha Taylor, Gloria Rubin and Giancarlo Esposito.

Though Ted Kennedy was back in Massachusetts continuing his cancer treatment, 80-year-old Ethel Kennedy came with a flock of children and grandchildren. Her daughter Kerry, who’s been at the front of the RFK Memorial’s human rights crusade, told us she’s thought about running, “but I’m divorced with three kids. Right now, I want to be a mother.”

What about rumors that her increasingly visible cousin, Caroline Kennedy, might run for office?

“I don’t know,” said Kerry, “but she’d be so great. She really has the capacity to bring people together.” Bobby agreed: “We’d all be delighted to see her [run].”

Meanwhile, Gov. Patterson confirmed that the Triborough Bridge would be officially renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge on Nov. 19.

* Here’s what the local Denver CBS affiliate had to say of the RFK Memorial event:

A special tribute to Senator Robert F Kennedy in Denver

A special tribute to Senator Robert F Kennedy in Denver

DENVER (CBS4) ― The Democrats are celebrating their historic nomination this week as Barack Obama becomes the first African American candidate from a major party to run for president. But the party is also celebrating its heritage and the Kennedy family has been the focus of several events.

Many of the Kennedys joined other dignitaries to honor the legacy of another member of the family, Robert F. Kennedy, on Wednesday.

There were Kennedys everywhere: Ethel, Patrick, Robert Jr., Kathleen and Max were all at the event. Also on hand were the Clintons, Gov. Paterson of New York and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.

“The life he lived was based on hope and bringing the people together,” Max said. “If you look just at that one photograph of my dad with Cesar Chavez breaking bread together … I think that encapsulates the idea of the United States coming together for the first time.”

“He was also one that stepped outside the establishment,” Rev. Al Sharpton said. “To oppose the war in Vietnam he showed courage, he showed vision and ultimately it cost him his life.”

The event was held by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, an organization that focuses on human rights and social justice.

VIDEO of the event is available on the CBS4Denver website…the link probably won’t be active for long, so check it out while you can!

3 Comments

Filed under barack obama, election 2008, hillary clinton, jackie kennedy, JFK, John F. Kennedy, media, politics, president kennedy, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, the kennedys, Uncategorized

Opinion: Obama is NOT the Next RFK

* We’d like to share with our readers this Letter to the Editor of the Washingtonian in response to a recent article asking “Is Barack Obama the next RFK?”

The author (who is a frequent commentator on this blog) sent us a copy and granted permission to post it here at the Kennedy for President website as well. We think you’ll enjoy what she has to say.

OPINION: 

OBAMA IS NOT THE NEXT RFK!

To: The Editorial Staff of the Washingtonian 

I thank you for allowing me and like-minded others to address this important issue.  Your article on RFK was very painful to read, as I was a young, passionate campaigner in that glorious quest that was Robert Kennedy For President in 1968. 

What is all this nonsense of comparing Obama to Robert Kennedy?  Are all of you deaf and blind to the fact that one of the most charismatic, capable, and noble of men is alive and well?

He is right now one of the smartest stewards of Planet Earth.  A man who draws crowds of strangers who walk away disciples.  A man capable of leading when major societal surgery is necessary.  A man who will appeal to cross generations of Americans, a man who can appeal to Blacks, Muslims, Jews and Catholics alike.  A man who will once again inspire our youth with patriotism and give them effective programs, like JFK’s Peace Corps,  in which to invest their talents and skills in a way that supports our country at large. 

He is a man every inch his father’s son and his name is ROBERT F KENNEDY, JR!  

We missed the opportunity this year, but I pray somebody in agreement with me, somebody REAL powerful and passionate about Bobby Kennedy Sr. will see the light and get RFK’s torch in his hand.

There is a group of devoted volunteers and Kennedy supporters who have started a web site and petition to encourage RFK Jr. to run for the White House. I invite readers, or whoever happens to read this in editorial office to take a peek at http://www.RFKin2008.com

I have nothing against Obama, but he does not move me like Kennedy, Jr. does and I can not, for example, see him coaxing Americans to find and implement radical new ways of transportation to keep ourselves alive in the years to come.  Our enviromental policy has been disasterous; we can no longer keep giving our money and wealth away to the Arab Emerates.  We live in deadly serious times that cry for a level of charisma, common sense, and leadership that I have only seen evidenced in Bobby, Jr.  As Barry Goldwater, a good friend of JFK, used to say, “In your Heart You Know He’s Right!”. 

Right now the dreams of many of us who were behind Bobby Kennedy for 2008 seem dimmed.  However, the times we are living in are so crazy, this campaign has gone off into the most aberrant directions in both campaigns that yes, I CAN, visualize millions of voters going to the polls and drafting our Next President.  After all that is going down, what was once unthinkable is now plausable.

 

– Suzanne Silverstein

5 Comments

Filed under climate change, election 2008, environment, global warming, JFK, John F. Kennedy, media, politics, president kennedy, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, the kennedys, Uncategorized

NY State Renames Triborough Bridge for RFK

Former U.S. Attorney General and Senator from New York, Robert F. Kennedy

NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY RENAMES TRIBOROUGH BRIDGE THE ROBERT F. KENNEDY BRIDGE

 Albany, New York, — The New York State Assembly approved legislation on June 5 to rename the Triborough Bridge in New York City as the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.

The bill passed the State Senate on April 8, and now heads to the desk of Governor David Paterson for signing.

Forty years after Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign, the bridge would become the first major public work dedicated to Kennedy in New York State, where he served as U.S. Senator from 1965-1968.

“On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the tragic assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, I commend the NYS Legislature on the passage of this bill which appropriately recognizes the enormous contribution of an exemplary New Yorker. Robert F. Kennedy enriched us all through his efforts to advance civil rights, fight poverty and provide unity during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history. I continue to be inspired by his words, his work and his legacy,” said Governor David A. Paterson.

“Forty years ago, our nation lost one of its most influential sons, Robert F. Kennedy. I can’t think of a more fitting honor than dedicating a bridge after a man who committed his life to bridging the gaps that divided humanity, first as U.S. Attorney General, and then as a Senator from the great State of New York,” said Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno. “Renaming this bridge after Robert F. Kennedy is more than a symbolic gesture — by doing so, we are ensuring that future generations of New Yorkers, and people from across the world, will remember the remarkable contributions of a great man who devoted his life to making this world a better place.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “I am proud to sponsor and the People’s House of the State Legislature is proud to pass this historic legislation renaming New York’s majestic Triborough Bridge as the Senator Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. Bobby Kennedy served our state and our nation with courage and compassion. On this the 40th anniversary of his assassination, this renaming is a fitting tribute to a great American leader who gave his life striving to bridge the gaps that divide our people. As we continue striving to transform his vision to reality, let us be guided by Senator Kennedy’s eloquence: ‘Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. The work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, will determine our destiny.’

“This is a tremendous honor. Our family is overjoyed,” said Ethel Kennedy. “I love that the city he knew and cared about returns his devotion. Our family is enormously grateful for this glorious celebration of his life.”

”Robert Kennedy loved New York, he grew up there and considered it his home, dedicating much of his final years to improving the quality of life for its most vulnerable citizens” said his son, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., top environmental lawyer and advocate. “He would be humbled by the symbolism of the structure bearing his name.”

“On the fortieth anniversary of his last campaign, naming the span across three boroughs is a tremendous tribute to Robert Kennedy’s commitment to bridging divides between black and white, rich and poor, young and old, and to his commitment to creating a more just and peaceful world,” said Kerry Kennedy, founder, Robert F Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.

The Triborough Bridge is located on Interstate 278 and is operated by the State of New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority. Opened in 1936, the facility now consists of three bridges, a viaduct, and 14 miles of approach roads connecting Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. The bridge serves as a well traveled connection for those heading to destinations in New York City, Long Island and Upstate New York.

While representing New York, Senator Kennedy initiated numerous projects for the state’s residents, including assistance to underprivileged children and students with disabilities and the establishment of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation to improve living conditions and employment opportunities for residents in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. The cutting-edge program became a model for urban renewal and community development across the nation.

Robert F. Kennedy boldly faced tough problems and challenged the comfortable and complacent. To keep his vision alive, his family and friends founded a living memorial in 1968. The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the human rights movement through providing innovative support to human rights defenders around the world who have won the RFK Human Rights Award. Every year the RFK Memorial honors leading investigative journalists and authors who bring light to injustice through the RFK Book and Journalism Awards. Through the combined power of arts and education, the RFK Memorial’s SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER program seeks to proactively engage the general public by bringing human rights activists and their work into contact with ever-increasing audiences. Over the past four years, SPEAK TRUTH has grown from a book by Kerry Kennedy exploring courage in the words of leading human rights defenders to a moving and inspirational play by Ariel Dorfman, a photographic exhibition by Pulitzer Prize-winner Eddie Adams, a PBS documentary, an educational packet, and a series of public service announcements.

Source: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial (www.rfkmemorial.org)

4 Comments

Filed under jackie kennedy, JFK, JFK Jr., John F. Kennedy, john f. kennedy jr., politics, president kennedy, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, the kennedys, Uncategorized

The Kennedys: Why They Still Matter

 

the Kennedy Brothers

KENNEDY DYNASTY STILL HAS POWER TO SHAPE NATION’S HISTORY

 The last brother is gravely ill, prompting an outpouring of acclaim, even from precincts that seldom have praised him. The Democratic Party is in a swivet over remarks Hillary Rodham Clinton made about the second brother, whose June triumph in the tumultuous year 1968 was undone by his June assassination. A sad spring anniversary — 40 years ago this week — approaches, dreaded by many of the victim’s aging acolytes, their idealism undiminished, their hero’s promise never realized. Who says the Kennedys are in eclipse?

For years the Bushes have been the American dynasty in the ascendancy. They’ve served three terms as president (about 5 percent of the time the United States has existed), been elected governor four times (of two of the four biggest states, comprising almost one-seventh of the nation’s population), served in the House, the Senate and the vice presidency, and at the United Nations, the Central Intelligence Agency and in an important diplomatic post in China.

The Bushes may be the family that defines the nation in its third century. Today the Kennedys have almost no political power — but they still retain immense power over all of us. Right now we are again in one of those Kennedy moments.

It began when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor. The Massachusetts Democrat is often called the “lion of the Senate,” and his roar has given voice to those without health insurance, without economic prospects, without education or training. He is a liberal — the liberals’ liberal, you might say — but often his hand extended across the aisle, meeting Sen. Orrin Hatch’s to craft legislation on children’s health insurance and hate crimes, meeting George W. Bush’s to shape education law.

In the days since Mr. Kennedy’s diagnosis, Republicans and Democrats alike have said that they cannot imagine the Senate without him. That is in part because Mr. Kennedy is the third longest-serving senator in history, after Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. (He has been in the Senate a third longer than the entire life expectancy of a person born the year the Constitution was written.)

The Kennedys have been a prominent part of American history since the senator’s father was appointed the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a span that covers about a third of the nation’s history — and that does not account for the political lineage on Mr. Kennedy’s mother’s side, which includes John F. Fitzgerald, who more than a century ago became the first American-born Irish-Catholic mayor of Boston.

All three Kennedy brothers — the fourth brother, the oldest, Joe Jr., perished in World War II — served in the Senate and ran for president. Ted’s older brothers inspired two generations of Americans with their intelligence, wit and eloquence. But Ted, perhaps the least quotable but surely the most approachable of the three, is still, at 76, building a formidable legacy. His brothers’ words are in large letters on the sides of buildings and in the hearts and memory of a nation. But the youngest brother is the fine-print Kennedy. His words are in the fine print of the nation’s laws.

Few who met the new senator in 1962 (or who watched him in the frantic days after Chappaquiddick) thought he’d become a heavyweight legislator. Nine presidents later, Mr. Kennedy is arguably one of the leading dozen senators of American history. His colleagues include Webster, Calhoun and Clay.

Dynastic politics are difficult politics, which is why anything involving the Kennedys and such powerful families as the Bushes or Clintons is fraught with difficulty. Sen. Clinton’s remarks about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy likely were made in the spirit of saying that presidential nomination fights, like operas, aren’t over until the fat lady sings. But with her opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, provided with early Secret Service protection and with Ted Kennedy facing a serious health challenge, she found herself apologizing for what seemed like a crass reference to Friday’s anniversary of the death of Robert Kennedy.

It was 40 years ago, and somehow that day still seems raw, with the flush of victory erased by the tragedy of an assassin’s bullet. That was one of those moments when history stood still, and, having paused, changed direction. We do not know whether Kennedy would have been elected president, but it is unlikely that Hubert H. Humphrey would have won the Democratic nomination, and it is unlikely that there would have been blood on the streets in Chicago during that tension-filled convention had Kennedy not died after the California primary.

This year’s twin anniversaries of the deaths of Kennedy and of Martin Luther King Jr. fill us with a sense of loss even today — more than that, a sense of unrealized opportunity. What died with both of them was a very powerful sense of possibility. It was sickening and horrible then. Somehow it seems even more sickening and horrible today.

That is because we don’t know what these men might have done. We know only what was done by those who were left behind. (In fairness, we also do not know what errors they would have made, what enduring problems they would have created. But the mind does not work that way. It freezes the dead in their posture of possibility.) So in a few days we will remember, yet again, what happened in 1968 and how much that year shaped America. It created, to start, anger and apprehension, but it created much more than that.

No one living in that year would have guessed the ferociousness of the backlash it created, nor the sheer energy and creativity of the conservatism that it spawned. We are marked equally by them both.

That is the irony of this Kennedy moment. It reminds us, to be sure, of what we have lost. But it also reminds us of how different are our politics and our lives, not just because of what was done to Robert Kennedy, but also because of what Ted Kennedy has done.

 

David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Shribman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1995 for his coverage of Washington and the American political scene.

Link: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ucds/20080531/cm_ucds/kennedydynastystillhaspowertoshapenationshistory

 

4 Comments

Filed under jackie kennedy, JFK, JFK Jr., John F. Kennedy, john f. kennedy jr., media, politics, president kennedy, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, texas, the kennedys, Uncategorized

RFK June Issue of Vanity Fair Stirs `68 Memories

Vanity Fair June 2008 RFK cover

The June issue of Vanity Fair, commemorating 40 years since we lost Bobby Kennedy, is on newstands now, and it’s hard to miss.

A striking closeup of RFK’s face adorns the cover, a photograph so crisp and evocative it will stop you in your tracks. You can’t just breeze past it at the supermarket. This remarkable photo simply grabs you and won’t let go. You have to stop and take a closer look.

Inside, the issue is packed with rare photographs of Kennedy’s 1968 campaign, many never-before seen or published . We are also treated to a preview of Thurston Clarke’s new book, Robert Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, released this week by Henry Holt.

Here’s an excerpt below, just to whet your appetite for more. But you’ll definitely want to buy a copy before they’re all gone. This one’s a keeper!

Excerpt

The Last Good Campaign

Increasingly opposed to the Vietnam War, Robert F. Kennedy struggled over whether he should challenge his party’s incumbent president, Lyndon Johnson, in 1968. His younger brother, Teddy, was against it. His wife, Ethel, urged him on. Many feared he would be assassinated, like the older brother he mourned.

by Thurston Clarke June 2008

 

RFK in Indianapolis, 1968

Bobby Kennedy campaigns in Indianapolis during May of 1968, with various aides and friends, including (behind and left of Kennedy) former prizefighter Tony Zale and (right of Kennedy) N.F.L. stars Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier, and Deacon Jones. Photographs by Bill Eppridge.

Text excerpted from by Thurston Clarke, to be published this month by Henry Holt and Company, L.L.C.; © 2008 by the author.The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America,

Photographs excerpted from photographs and text by Bill Eppridge; introduction by Pete Hamill; to be published this month by Abrams; © 2008 by Bill Eppridge.A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties;

Two months after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy traveled to Asia on an itinerary that had originally been planned for J.F.K. During the trip, he visited a girls’ school in the Philippines where the students sang a song they had composed to honor his brother. As he drove away with CBS cameraman Walter Dombrow, he clenched his hands so tightly that they turned white, and tears rolled down his cheeks. He shook his head, signaling that Dombrow should remain silent. Finally he said in a choked voice, “They would have loved my brother.” Dombrow put his arm around him and said, “Bob, you’re going to have to carry on for him.” Kennedy stared straight ahead for half a minute before turning to Dombrow and nodding. It was then, Dombrow said, that he knew Bobby would run for president and realized how much he loved him.

A deep, black grief gripped Robert Kennedy in the months following his brother’s assassination. He lost weight, fell into melancholy silences, wore his brother’s clothes, smoked the cigars his brother had liked, and imitated his mannerisms. Eventually his grief went underground, but it sometimes erupted in geysers of tears, as had happened in the Philippines. He wept after seeing a photograph of his late brother in the office of a former aide, wept when asked to comment on the Warren Commission Report, and wept after eulogizing J.F.K. at the 1964 Democratic convention with a quotation from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.”

 

View more of Bill Eppridge’s photos of RFK.

Kennedy was still mourning his brother and endeavoring to live for him when he ran for the U.S. Senate from New York in the autumn of 1964, telling a friend that he wanted to ensure that the hopes J.F.K. had kindled around the world would not die, and saying in his victory statement that he had won “an overwhelming mandate to continue the policies” of President Kennedy. And at first it appeared that his 1968 presidential campaign—challenging his brother’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, for the Democratic Party’s nomination—would be another homage to J.F.K. Bobby announced his candidacy on March 16 in the caucus room of the Old Senate Office Building, the room that his brother had used for the same purpose. He stood in the same spot and began with the same sentence: “I am announcing today my candidacy for the presidency of the United States.” After saying that he was running to “close the gaps that now exist between black and white, between rich and poor, between young and old,” he concluded with a passage that made him sound like his brother, perhaps because it had been contributed in part by Ted Sorensen, who had been his brother’s speechwriter: “I do not lightly dismiss the dangers and the difficulties of challenging an incumbent President. But these are not ordinary times and this is not an ordinary election. At stake is not simply the leadership of our party and even our country. It is our right to the moral leadership of this planet.”

Some advisers had urged him to excise this passage from his speech, arguing that it represented the kind of New Frontier hubris that had ensnared America in the Vietnam War, which Kennedy now fervently opposed. Washington Post reporter David Broder would disparage the speech’s reliance on “the nostalgic rhetoric of the earlier Kennedy era.” But Bobby’s “right to the moral leadership of this planet” line turned out to be closer to the truth than even he, or Ted Sorensen, realized at the time. At stake was not so much Americans’ moral leadership as their belief that they were worthy of such leadership.

In 1968, America was a wounded nation. The wounds were moral ones; the Vietnam War and three summers of inner-city riots had inflicted them on the national soul, challenging Americans’ belief that they were a uniquely noble and honorable people. Americans saw news footage from South Vietnam, such as the 1965 film of U.S. Marines setting fire to thatched huts in the village of Cam Ne with cigarette lighters and flamethrowers, and realized that they were capable of committing atrocities once considered the province of their enemies. They saw federal troops patrolling the streets of American cities and asked themselves how this could be happening in their City upon a Hill.

Nevertheless, on the day that Kennedy announced his candidacy, it was by no means obvious that 1968 would become a watershed year. Most of the year’s momentous events would occur after Kennedy’s March 16 announcement, with many of the most shocking ones unfolding during his campaign. Had you told anyone in the Senate caucus room that morning that during the next 82 days President Johnson would decline to seek a second term, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy would both be assassinated, and America would suffer its worst racial disturbances since the Civil War, they might have believed that one or two of those things might happen, but not all, nor in such quick succession.

After concluding his announcement, Kennedy took questions ranging from skeptical to hostile. But as he left the Capitol, supporters screaming his name grabbed at his clothes and leapt in the air to see him, much as his brother’s supporters had in 1960. Anyone witnessing this and hearing the New Frontier echoes in his announcement would have been justified in assuming that his campaign would indeed be an extended tribute to his brother. Instead, March 16 would be the end rather than the beginning of such a tribute, and during the next three months he would run on issues his brother had seldom raised and in a manner, at times, his brother would have found undignified.

Richard Nixon, who had lost the presidency to J.F.K. in 1960, watched Kennedy’s announcement from a hotel room in Portland, Oregon. John Ehrlichman, one of several aides in the room with Nixon, later wrote, “When it was over and the hotel-room TV was turned off, Nixon sat and looked at the blank screen for a long time, saying nothing. Finally, he shook his head slowly. ‘We’ve just seen some very terrible forces unleashed,’ he said. ‘Something bad is going to come of this.’ He pointed at the screen, ‘God knows where this is going to lead.’ ” Meanwhile, by one account, Kennedy was telling Nicole Salinger, the wife of J.F.K.’s press secretary Pierre Salinger, “I’m sleeping well for the first time in months. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but at least I’m at peace with myself.”

 

 

(…More at Vanity Fair.com.)

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under media, politics, president kennedy, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, the kennedys, Uncategorized