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Column: A Look Back On Robert Kennedy's Life

This story was written by Jeremy Sherer, Daily Californian


The year was 1968; 40 years ago, our nation was in the midst of a crisis of conscience. Conflict raged between seemingly every part of our society-whites vs. non whites, young vs. old, the economically privileged vs. those who were locked out of the American dream.The flames of fear, division and hate were fanned with each inner-city riot and with every nightly news casualty report from Vietnam. The ideals our nation was founded on shuddered under the weight of reality.One voice during this time spoke to the better angels of our nature, that of Robert Kennedy. Robert Kennedy had already endured his own personal crisis of conscience following the death of his brother, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.In the void created by his brother's death, Robert Kennedy questioned his own purpose for existence. Kennedy found his purpose in the altruistic focus of attempting to ease the pain of others who were suffering. Until his own dying day, Robert Kennedy would seek to "tame the savageness of man, and make gentle the life of this world."The suffering that Kennedy found in his travels as a United States senator became his motivation. Kennedy sought out those struggling to find some semblance of the promise of America yet failing. In these travels to the ghettos and farms of America, Kennedy met children suffering from hunger that we only associate with third world nations. He met men and women who were exploited in fields while trying to earn an honest day's wage-simply because of the color of their skin.In witness to the pain and injustice he saw, Kennedy sought to bring hope-for as Christ said, and Kennedy believed-man does not live on bread alone. For those who met Robert Kennedy, he became their hope.Kennedy became the hope of South Africans as he visited their country, decrying their government's system of apartheid, and boldly stating, "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."Kennedy became one of the lone spokespersons for the plight of Native Americans who still suffered from the broken promises of America. And Kennedy was the hope of Indianapolis as it stood in peace and mourning while the rest of the nation burned in the flames of riots following the death of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.In 1968, Robert Kennedy mounted an 85-day race for the presidency that was met by unprecedented fervor. The nation was longing for a president who would bind up its wounds, and many believed that Robert Kennedy could stop the hemorrhaging of our nation's prestige abroad and its compassion within.Kennedy's unique political coalition of urban minorities, Hispanic farm workers and impoverished, rural whites who four years earlier had supported segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace, won Kennedy sweeping victories in every aside from Oregon.This coalition of "have-nots" had conflicts and prejudices within its own ranks; however, what held them together was the belief that Robert Kennedy truly did feel their pain and that he was going to do something about it.This hope became deferred. On June 4, 1968, after his resounding victories in the California and South Dakota primaries, an assassin's bullet struck Senator Robert Kennedy. Two days later when Kennedy finally succumbed to his injuries, those who had hoped for a mending of America were left the contrasting reality of Richard Nixon.Many of the societal ills that Robert Kennedy sought to relieve are with us still-poverty, war, prejudice. Still too, the inspiration and hope he inspired ripples through our society.As a nation we still struggle to fight the good fight, all that we are vs. all that we know we coul and should be. Our nation's global pre-eminence is questioned, and many consider it waning.However, our Union shall endure as it has endured, if we remember the words of Edward Kennedy as he eulogized Robert Kennedy in stating, "As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: 'Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.'"So, too, must we never stop dreaming of what is yet to be attained, and the better angels of our nature must never stop asking why not. For what makes our nation noble and great in the eyes of the world and in history is not the reality of today but our pursuit of tomorrow.

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