Category Archives: RFK

Explaining History to the New Generation

I have been to Arlington National Cemetery 4 times in my lifetime and each time I still get the chills walking into that place. The history and the magnitude of that place is hard to put into words and if you have never been, I would suggest making at least one trip there. Unlike the other times I have been to Arlington in which I would been in a rush to get to the next stops on our Washington D.C tour, this time I was able to spend all the time I wanted. I spent about three hours on one of the days there and I was able to take it all in. As I walked to the eternal flame to pay my respects to both President and Mrs. Kennedy, I was in stiff competition with all of these student groups that were there as well. I stood back and waited for my turn as the large groups would move on down the line of Kennedy brothers that are buried nearby. As you get closer to the flame you can start to feel the magnitude of what could have been and the many “what ifs” that are buried at that site. I took my time, said a prayer and just kept thinking about my own potential and if I was doing enough, not just for my country but for my family as well. President Kennedy inspired me when I was a struggling 9 year old who had zero interest in learning how to read or had any thought that one day I would be holding a Master’s degree in history because of him. Now here I was standing by his grave site and I just wanted to breakdown.

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As you walk the pathway that connects the Kennedy brothers at Arlington, you will see that Bobby is buried not far away from his brother Jack. It was at Bobby’s grave site that I would really fall deep into this zone that is hard to describe. His grave site is marked by a single cross, a headstone and nothing more. There is a wall across from his grave site that includes the speech he delivered after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. There was another wall nearby that I was able to sit on and think, sometimes taking notes, but mostly I was there to reflect. I sat on this ledge for 2 hours, watching group after group head up to the eternal flame only to walk right past Bobby on their way to another of the cemetery’s monuments. Sometimes the groups would stop and pay respects to Bobby and others did not. Some of the guides would tell these students a quick story about who was buried there, but nothing of any substance that would tell them that someone special was buried there. I even heard a guide confuse stories of Teddy and Bobby, one of which said that Bobby was the one who was at Chappaquiddick in 1969. My fiancé had to keep me from opening my mouth to correct him and tried to tell me to let it go. That’s just not me. So when they got to Teddy’s grave which is just a few steps away from Bobby’s, I had to make the correction to the guide.

This got me thinking some more about what I could be doing. Yes, teaching has always been something that I have wanted to do, but would that be enough? Seeing group after group walk past Bobby, just made me think more about it. This was a man that could have had the most potential to change things we know today. Things that Bobby stood for, are still some of the same things we struggle with today. At least the tour guides taking these students could have mentioned the potential, the passion and the desire he had to make this a better world. I heard them at the eternal flame, I heard the long talks they gave these students for JFK, but it could have been said about RFK as well. We long for leaders that inspire us, make us want to be more than what we are. I truly believe that RFK saw the potential in people and that is what would have made him an unforgettable president had he lived and won. We just will never know like many things when it comes to the Kennedy’s as their potential was cut way too short in life.

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What Could Have Been..

The word “Hope” is used a lot when talking about many of the great politicians who lives were cut too short. The 1960’s especially was a critical turning point in our country’s history, when the decade began with the word “Hope”. When President John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th President of the United States, he brought the word to the forefront of American politics. The young president spoke strong words in his inauguration speech, and left the country believing that our future was in good hands. As we know, his presidency was cut short and with his death, the word “Hope” was soon lost on that day in Dallas. Our hope for the future was no longer in his hands; instead it was left with a President who had a different agenda and a different mindset then that of his predecessor. No one could believe that Lyndon Johnson would continue the work that JFK had sought for the country, not even JFK’s brother Robert could believe it. When John Kennedy died on November 22nd, 1963 it would feel like the hope of the nation had left with him.

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It would be 5 years before the word “Hope” would once again come in front of the American people. A decision so many had hoped he would make, Senator Robert F. Kennedy decided to run for President of the United States 50 years ago this month. A turning point was on the horizon in American politics as Lyndon Johnson had turned into a hated figure, and hope was all but lost with him sitting in the Oval Office. Unable to sit back, and seeing an opportunity to bring back the word “Hope”, RFK made a decision to run. What transpired was a campaign that lasted for 3 months and instantly brought back that same breath of fresh air that JFK had brought 8 years before. The American people needed a leader like RFK to inspire them, to lead them, and to bring everyone together. The year 1968 in history books, is one that is filled with hatred and violence, but some of that could have changed had RFK been able to fulfill his destiny. Instead, destiny took a turn on the night of June 4th, 1968 as RFK was shot and killed having just won the Democratic primary in California. The speech RFK gave before his death was filled with the same hope and inspiring message of unity that he had been speaking about for the past 3 months on the campaign trail. Now that voice was silent, and another Kennedy’s life was cut too short to fully bring “Hope” to a reality.

Now as we look back on what could have been 50 years later, we are still tormented by the word “Hope”. To some, hope was lost on November 22, 1963, but to many, hope died on the day RFK took his last breath. We have seen over the years those who have tried to replicate the Kennedy flare, and bringing back “Hope”, but it is never the same and they are never able to come through. The country lost its faith in politicians in the 1960’s mostly in part to leaders like Johnson and Nixon, but that could have changed had Bobby won the election in 1968. We can never go back and time, but we can always think of what could have been scenario. By looking at the work someone had been putting in and seeing the belief that person had inn the country, makes you believe them to their word. Even though 50 years have passed, and he was never elected President of the United States, Robert Kennedy is just as beloved figure now as he was then. It is surrounded around the word “Hope”, a true belief that this man had the best interest in the country in mind and could have changed the course of history had he lived. I will end this post with the words of Ted Kennedy as he eulogized his brother Robert, “My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it”.

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