RFK Jr. Talks Turkey In Texas

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Edinburg, TX Nov. 14, 2007

PHOTO CAPTION: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks on the campus of the University of Texas Pan-American, Nov. 14, 2007.

RFK AT UTPA

Down here in Texas, the phrase “talking turkey” is often thrown into our conversations, and the natives just seem to instinctively know what we’re talking about. If you don’t speak Texan, however, a translation may be required.

Broadly defined, someone “talks turkey” when they speak frankly, openly, truthfully. And that’s just what Robert F. Kennedy Jr. did during his Texas trip. His last scheduled speech before the Thanksgiving holiday brought him to the Rio Grande Valley as the keynote speaker for International Week on the UTPA campus, whose theme this year is “Earth Matters.”

RFK Jr. spoke to a packed auditorium at the University of Texas-Pan American Wednesday night as part of their Distinguished Speakers Series. (Former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev was the featured speaker on campus last month.)

Now when I say the place was packed, I do mean jam-packed. Doors opened at 7 p.m. to UTPA students and faculty, but by the time the general public was admitted at 7:20 p.m., there were hardly any available seats remaining. Before his speech even began at 7:30, the doors of the Fine Arts Auditorium had to be locked and a couple hundred more people were turned away. (Luckily, these dejected souls were at least able to watch his speech in the nearby student union over closed circuit television.)

Myself and a small group of volunteers from the RFKin2008.com website made the 6-hour drive to Edinburg for the event. Of course, we brought with us a few new converts who were about to witness their very first RFK Jr. speech. I don’t think they were quite prepared for his intensity onstage and rapid-fire delivery; they hung on his every word, really just trying to keep pace with him.

Barely stopping to take a breath, Kennedy ran the gamut from global warming to religion, from corporate corruption of our government to why we must impeach President Bush. He often surprised the audience by quoting Republican presidents such as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, declaring that today’s NeoCons have dishonored everything these great American leaders stood for. “They’ve torn the conserve out of conservatism,” he said.

RFK always supports his positions with a mind-boggling array of memorized facts and figures, and somehow manages to tie it all together into a message of bipartisan cooperation and hope by the end of the speech. While much of what he has to say is the sobering truth, it’s not all doom and gloom. One never leaves one of his talks feeling powerless; quite the opposite, actually. I might liken it to the kind of spiritual “charge” felt by the congregation after a particularly rousing Sunday morning revival.

 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in Texas, Nov. 14, 2007

“NATURE ULTIMATELY CONNECTS US TO GOD” 

At times looking and sounding more like an evangelist than an environmentalist, Kennedy characterized protecting our natural environment as a service to God and thus, ourselves. “The reason we protect these natural things,” said Kennedy, “is for our own sakes. Nature is part of our infrastructure. It enriches us aesthetically and spiritually.

“We will not fulfill our destiny in the eyes of our Creator if we let these things be destroyed. Nature ultimately connects us to God; it is the way God talks to us most forcefully. We know God through His creation, and when we destroy these things, it has to be a sin. God wants us to use His bounty for ourselves and for others, but we can’t use it up. We can’t treat the planet as if it were a corporation in liquidation.”

Although his speech was seamless and well-rehearsed as always, Kennedy was at his best when he digressed from the usual script and allowed himself to be a bit spontaneous. At one point, he started telling the audience about his recent six-week court battle against DuPont who “wantonly, willfully, and recklessly” poisoned the residents of a small West Virigina town with pollution from a nearby zinc-smelting plant. The jury agreed, awarding nearly $400 million in damages to the plaintiffs. (Not surprisingly, DuPont plans to appeal.)

Kennedy said that DuPont corporation repeatedly misled the public with many “little lies” intended to save the company money on testings and cleanups. “They were being cagey. They were being dodgy. They were being coy. They were being clever,” he explained. “That is who DuPont is. They have lost touch with their moral bearings.” 

DuPont, the nation’s third largest chemical company, was found negligent in creating a 112-acre waste site, putting area residents at a higher-than-normal risk of diseases including cancer, cognitive problems, cardiac disease, even lead poisoning – and that’s just the short list.

Talking at length about these low-income families who suffered the toxic health effects inflicted by DuPont for decades, Kennedy’s voice began to crack with genuine emotion. “These were people who could not believe that other human beings were able to treat them this way, but this was a company that is willing to treat all of these people as if they were commodities,” he said. “They looked over the green landscape of West Virginia and they saw a commodity. They saw cash.”

RFK Jr., Edinburg, TX, 2007

“WE ARE LIVING IN A SCIENCE-FICTION NIGHTMARE”

“This is the worst environmental White House that we have had in history,” Kennedy said bluntly. He pointed out numerous cases in which lobbyists and other industry representatives were given key positions in federal environmental programs and used their authority to help industries subvert the law. Their actions have harmed the public, especially the poor, but it’s the people who end up paying for their misdeeds, he said.

Kennedy listed numerous statistics, including how four out of five toxic waste sites are near poor minority communities and how more than 600,000 children born every year were exposed to dangerous mercury levels in their mothers’ wombs for the simple reason that most freshwater fish is now unsafe to eat. “This is true all over the country because of industrial waste released into our waterways,” Kennedy said.

High levels of mercury have been linked to numerous birth defects, including autism and mental retardation. He pointed out that scientists have proven high mercury levels in women contribute greatly to a drop in children’s IQ, as much as 10 points or more, he said.

“We’re living today in a science fiction nightmare … because somebody gave money to a politician.” Kennedy would return to that theme more than once in his speech.

And while he said he loathed partisanship and said the worst thing that could happen to environmentalism would be for it to become the province of one political party, Kennedy fired a few more zingers at the Republicans. The one that drew the most laughter was in reference to a study done by the University of Maryland after the 2004 presidential election showing how misinformation affected the way people voted.

“Eighty percent of Republicans are just Democrats who don’t know what’s going on,” he said.

Bobby Kennedy Jr. in Texas, Nov. 14, 2007

THE ONE QUESTION EVERYBODY WANTED TO ASK

At the conclusion of his hour-long speech, Kennedy opened the floor to questions.

He was quizzed about where he stood on the issue of building a border fence to curb illegal immigration, a very hot issue in the Rio Grande Valley. RFK Jr. told the crowd (90% or more of whom were Hispanic) that “this whole crisis was brought on by the breakdown of the labor unions in America. The key to solving this problem is the revival of labor unions. I don’t think building a border wall is the answer. If you build a wall 40 feet tall, somebody will build a 41-foot ladder.”

Kennedy was also asked if he supports the legalization of hemp (he does) and one brave soul even dared to ask him his thoughts on Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (our U.S. representative from the 14th District in South Texas). “You know, I really like a lot of what he has to say,” RFK Jr. replied, “and I respect his stance on issues like the war, but…” his voice trailed off, his face broke into a grin…”he says a lot of really crazy stuff, too.”

Which led us to the one question that was on everybody’s mind. The question we drove 6 hours just to ask. The proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the living room. But before any of the RFKin2008.com volunteers could get to the microphone, some of the locals beat us to the punch:

Kennedy was asked if he plans to run for public office anytime soon. He gave a vague,  anecdotal answer, telling the assembled crowd how he had thought of running back in 2000, but then dropped the idea upon learning his wife was pregnant. “Under the circumstances, I think she wanted me around the house a little more,” he quipped.

This got a laugh, but it didn’t answer the question. When the microphone was passed to the next person in line, that man followed up with a more specifically-worded query for RFK Jr.:  Sir, will you run for President?

“If an office opened up where I felt I could do some good, yes, I’d be interested in running.”

An audible gasp could be heard throughout the house as people inched up to the edges of their seats. The whisper went `round: Did he just say what it sounds like he said?

Breaking the tension with a dash of humor, Kennedy chuckled, “In New York, I mean…”

Bobby Kennedy Jr. in Texas, Nov. 14, 2007

Photos and text copyright by RFKin2008.com. All rights reserved.

Video excerpt below from the UTPA Today Show (in 3 parts, available on YouTube)

 

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6 Comments

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

6 responses to “RFK Jr. Talks Turkey In Texas

  1. Maggie

    Why do you only publish fluffy, favorable comments for RFK? Are you afraid of some honest debate? It sure looks that way. This site would be a lot more interesting if honest discourse were allowed.

  2. I found it interesting that while watching the last Democratic debate in Vegas, that I beleve it was three of the Presidential candidates motioned for Impeachment of Bush/Cheney. I believe there are at least three of the Republican candidates who are public in supporting this as well… This is astounding. Bi-partisan agreement in support of something so daunting and awe inspiring is this fact that these candidates are in agreement that our highest office is corrupt and in direct violation of our public trust to uphold the office of the Presidency of the United States of America.

    That being said, and in anticipation of this site’s owners’ feed back from this trip to Texas, where they were going to ask Mr. Kennedy to run for President, I feel somewhat verklempft in not hearing what I so desperately wanted to hear, that RFK Jr. would run.

    There are similarities in the platform’s which RFK Jr and Al Gore promote in their philanthropic message, which they receive much attention for these days. This is the message that the planet is in trouble and that we need to heed her calls for attention to these matters. The rhetoric and consistency in the message that these two men draw our concern to is that we need to do something about it. This message has yielded a Nobel prize for Mr. Gore and much lauding from environmentally minded citizenry from across the globe. Without even so much as hinting he would run for President in 08′, I believe some polls put him at a solid 10% standing… He is even listed as a candidate on some Democratic web sites. That’s great and I understand fully why that is so. It is a result of the general public’s admiration for someone who is genuinely committed for a noble cause, which is for humanity’s future.

    The difference between Mr. Gore and Mr. Kennedy is that Mr. Kennedy assigns blame for our environmental condition squarely where it belongs and publicly as well as judiciously prosecutes the ones who commit these crimes against humanity. Mr. Kennedy is fully committed to follow through with his endeavors in championing the cause for which he is the unprecidented “front man” for the environmental fight. He takes this fight to the doorstep of the Corporations which are responsible for the damages they create. He lays the blame for our appearance of malaise and discontent (as a country) squarely where it can be seen in daylight… This blame is caused from enemies within our own government. He rails at fever pitch with conviction that the appointees from President Bush are Corporate Cronies who are biased and industry paid executives who we pay to safe guard us to protect our environment. He says that this is the worst environmental President ever as a result. Mr. Kennedy is a hero in my eyes for saying this and for promoting these battles in court (and winning). Mr. Kennedy sets precedent for this in environmental law because he can plainly prove that there are major inconsistancies in ethical and moral practices on behalf of these corporations in which the victims are you and I as well as himself.

    Mr. Kennedy said that he would run for office if he felt there were an openning in an office where he could do some good… Mr. Kennedy, I lose sleep these days thinking about what could possibly happen next in our country, given the extent of damage that these crony clown faced bufoon chumps have done already!

    I was told about a month ago that RFK Jr. was thinking about running for President. I knew right away that this was the answer I’ve been waiting for. I found this site and spoke my piece to encourage you to run sir. I don’t have an auditorium of people to speak to, nor does anyone give a rotten apple to hear about what Jack Mosel has to say about his thoughts on who our next President should be. That’s too bad, I have the same values as you and would be ecstatic to have the opportunity you have to put those values to use in establishing a viable third party Independent of cronyism and giving real democracy to our internal government, wow, not a bipartisan majority but a trilateral vote to represent our laws and nation. The time has come, we have evolved as a nation to install a fail-safe party to police the vote in Washington on behalf of the people.

    People are leaving their alliances to the Republican and Democratic parties in “Droves” they are seeking an Independent candidate. Do you really think that someone within the existing crowd is going to offer you an olive branch Sir? or even a leg up? You are a change agent sir. You cannot expect to come up through the ranks traditionally… Actually, you are “there” already.

    There is an open office for you, sir! It’s based in Washington, D.C. and you could accomplish more in this office than you could in New York. You can’t win the interview though unless you apply for the job. PSST… I hear you’re a shoe in…

    I’m writing your name in as my vote for President, sir. At least I’ll know I tried as hard as I could to effect some of what you champion for your cause, because its’ the same cause and nobody’s gonna write my name in.

  3. rfkin2008

    Well, Maggie, we can only publish the comments we actually recieve, and thus far, about 98% of them have been favorable. Apparently this disappoints you.

    We will publish any comment (whether positive or negative about RFK Jr.) so long as it is on-topic, does not contain personal attacks, and falls within the realm of good taste. Honest debate and tough questions are always encouraged here: if you can make a good point, post thoughtful, well-reasoned comments, and don’t sound like a crazy person, you’ll find that this crowd enjoys intelligent discourse. However, people who come here to start flame wars with other commentators will soon be shown the door. This web site is about a spirit of cooperation, bipartisanship, and peace — because we think that is the essence of Bobby Kennedy’s message.

    Obviously this is a pro-Kennedy site (would we ask him to run for President if we didn’t rather like the guy?), so you can expect that our coverage will generally be favorable.

    Although there is certainly plenty of negative coverage of RFK Jr. out there on the `net…if that’s what you are looking for, you should have no difficulty finding it elsewhere. And you will surely find many like-minded new friends on sites such as freerepublic.com.

  4. Chrisy

    His speech sounds wonderful. He does tell the truth. I do admire you Bobby for your courage in telling the truth.

    I do believe in my heart that RFK jr is the best hope for this country. Yet, at the same time I fear for him, because of all the nuts out there. I pray for him and ask that all of us who believe in God hold him up in prayer. That God will keep him safe, give him wisdom to know what the best thing for him to do, and how he can best serve this country.

    I would support his run on the Independepnt party, the Green Party and Unity 08. I will be writing RFK jr in when I vote. I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils.

    Maggie, I am not a Kennedy groupie. I am not a robot, but someone who makes up my own mind. Do I agree with Bobby on every single issue? NO, I think that there are several issues that we disagree on, but for the most important issues I DO AGREE with him, because what he is saying is the TRUTH!!!

    I am a Pro life Catholic. Abortion is the murder of innocent life. I believe that Bobby Kennedy Jr is pro choice. You might ask how can I as a pro life Catholic support and want a pro choice candidate to run for President? I can support RFK jr for President because 1. as a fellow Catholic he has to live his faith as he see fit, and that is between him and his God, as my Catholic walk is between me and my God 2. The US Bishops have said that even though abortion is the murder of innocent life that this year as Catholics that we can vote for a Pro Choice Candidate because of other moral issues that are very important.

    This year there are moral issues that need to be first and foremost in our minds. Bobby Kennedy Jr is the last best hope for this country and the American People taking this country back.

    Maggie, I don’t know about you, but I look around and I see our beloved country like the Titanic going down by the head. We have a President at the helm who doesn’t seem to care or is being reckless at the helm by listening to the very people that want to sink this ship. We need a leader at the helm who knows how to steer this ship back on course before it is to late.

    Bobby Kennedy is not perfect. I am sure he would agree that he has his faults and is human. He might even get a chuckle from those who worship his family as God, lol.

    Maggie, I want you to be honest with your thoughts. All in all, I think Bobby is the best person for President and that is why I support him.

  5. Carol

    can somedody tell me (here) what did he said about his last court case? PLEASE ANSWER! thanks

  6. Hi Carol – I presume you’re asking about the case against DuPont? From the story:

    At one point, he started telling the audience about his recent six-week court battle against DuPont who “wantonly, willfully, and recklessly” poisoned the residents of a small West Virigina town with pollution from a nearby zinc-smelting plant. The jury agreed, awarding nearly $400 million in damages to the plaintiffs. (Not surprisingly, DuPont plans to appeal.)

    Kennedy said that DuPont corporation repeatedly misled the public with many “little lies” intended to save the company money on testings and cleanups. “They were being cagey. They were being dodgy. They were being coy. They were being clever,” he explained. “That is who DuPont is. They have lost touch with their moral bearings.”

    DuPont, the nation’s third largest chemical company, was found negligent in creating a 112-acre waste site, putting area residents at a higher-than-normal risk of diseases including cancer, cognitive problems, cardiac disease, even lead poisoning – and that’s just the short list.

    Talking at length about these low-income families who suffered the toxic health effects inflicted by DuPont for decades, Kennedy’s voice began to crack with genuine emotion. “These were people who could not believe that other human beings were able to treat them this way, but this was a company that is willing to treat all of these people as if they were commodities,” he said. “They looked over the green landscape of West Virginia and they saw a commodity. They saw cash.”

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