June 5, 1968: The day Bobby died

Jim Booth at Scholars and Rogues wrote about what the death of Bobby Kennedy meant to a 16-year old kid out to save the world from darkest North Carolina.

This is just the 39th anniversary of RFK’s death. Next year, 2008, will be the 40th, and will again feature an election in which the war-crippled lame duck president must be succeeded, and the early fields in both parties do not excite the incumbent party’s masses much.

But 1968 was a uniquely terrible year — we hope it was unique. One serious question is just how depressing will it be to hear the “40-years out” stories on the Pueblo crisis, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, the riots, RFK’s death, the convention riots, the money-and-morale-and-morality sapping war (Vietnam, not Iraq — we hope), etc., etc.

And so Mr. Booth’s close is a potent challenge: To rededicate ourselves to the hopes we felt in the first half of 1968, to see the implementation of those hopes now, two generations later — despite the cynicism that wells up whenever we see anyone touted as a great hope of needed change in the country’s direction, or whenever great hopes are dashed to pieces, as they have been in Iraq.

And every June 5th I stop for a few moments and remember how I believed in what America could be once – try to get some of that belief back – and, to use an old Boomer chestnut, “keep on keeping on.”

And I ask Bobby to forgive me – and my generation – for failing to pick up his torch….

One Response to June 5, 1968: The day Bobby died

  1. bernarda says:

    Frankly, I was not an admirer of RFK. If anyone was cynical, it was him. He waited to see how Eugene McCarthy’s campaign would do, and when he saw it being successful, he decided to get off the fence and steal McCarthy’s program. Instead, he should have thrown his support to McCarthy. That would have been the honorable thing to do.

    McCarthy declared on November 30th, 1967.


    RFK declared on March 18th, 1968. He even hypocritically paid hommage to McCarthy,


    ” The remarkable New Hampshire campaign of Senator Eugene McCarthy has proven how deep are the present divisions within our party and within our country. Until that was publicly clear, my presence in the race would have been seen as a clash of personalities rather than issues.

    But now that the fight is on and over policies which I have long been challenging, I must enter the race. The fight is just beginning and I believe that I can win … ”

    Compare what RFK said to what McCarthy had been saying for months. What can you say about his qualifiers: “until that was publicly clear”; “now that the fight is on”. Of course the fight was not “just beginning”. Ask McCarthy.


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