RFK (the man and his legacy)
Robert F. Kennedy, born November 20th, 1925 in Brookline, MA, was the seventh child of Rose and Joseph P Kennedy. He earned a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1951 after receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science from Harvard University.
He began his political career managing his brother John’s successful senatorial campaign in 1952.
He would later guided John’s successful presidential campaign in 1960, and thereafter be appointed as Attorney General of the United States — during which period he would also serve as one of the president’s most trusted advisors. He was a staunch and committed defender of civil rights during his tenure there, and continued as such while he himself was a senator of New York after winning the election in 1964.
As attorney general, RFK successfully fought against the organized crime of his day. Under his watch and leadership, mafia arrests rose a staggering 800%. Her fervently defended the right to vote on behalf of African Americans, and considered the voting among the most fundamental of all rights. He went as far as to deploy federal troops to Oxford, Mississippi to ensure compliance with a judicial decision allowing the first African American student, James Meredith, to attend classes at the University of Mississippi. Upon his acceptance at the school, there were numerous protests that resulted in two deaths, and hundreds of injuries. Racial justice was of significant importance throughout Robert F. Kennedy’s entire career, and he worked directly with his brother, President John F. Kennedy, on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most extensive civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction era that followed the American Civil War.
As previously mentioned, Robert F. Kennedy was a key advisor and confidant of President Kennedy, in addition to Attorney General. He played an absolutely critical role in the deescalation, and ultimate resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 by helping his brother’s administration develop a diplomatic strategy as opposed to military action that could have led to thermonuclear warfare.
As a senator, he is most revered for having helped underprivileged children and students by way of an urban revitalization project aimed at improving the lives, conditions, and employment opportunities available to the least economically prosperous inhabitants of Brooklyn, NY. That plan serves as a model in other parts of the US to this very day.
In the end, such programs were but a portion of something much bigger: an even larger-scale, overall effort to directly and boldly address the plight of the poor and unrepresented members of American society, including racial minorities, Native Americans, and children. He fought hard to plant the seeds of collective, organized, focused social action in the hearts and minds of the American people in order for them to help each other effectuate societal change by personally visiting the urban ghettos of Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, as well as fields full of immigrant workers. He enacted laws, and worked to convince private industry to invest in those areas to create jobs, and a sense of hope for the unemployed through real, tangible opportunities, always stressing the importance of employment and purpose as helping to ensure a prosperous and positive future.
RFK’s efforts also had a significant impact outside of the US. He traveled to Eastern Europe, Latin American, and South Africa in order to share his deep conviction that all citizens possessed the fundamental right to directly participate in political decisions that affected themselves, and to be critical of their own governments without fear of reprisal. He was absolutely certain that those brave enough to strike out against injustice demonstrate themes noble form of courage in existence.
Kennedy initially supported the policies of President Lyndon B. Johnson toward Vietnam, and called for a broader compromise, as well as a new emphasis on the political and economic progress of South Vietnam.
However, when the conflict worsened and became prolonged, and US participation significantly increased, Senator Kennedy began to have serious doubts. It was at that time, in February of 1966, that he first publicly disagreed with the Johnson Administration. He accepted responsibility for his role in the Southeast Asia policy of the Kennedy Administration, and urged President Johnson to cease fire against North Vietnam, in addition to reducing US involvement in the armed conflict.
On March 18th, 1968, RFK announced his candidacy for president of the United States of America running for the Democratic Party. That year’s presidential campaign brought hope and challenge to a population affected by domestic violence, a war in Vietnam, and a general sense of unhappiness. He won the primaries in Indiana and Nebraska, and spoke with innumerable, exceedingly enthusiastic citizens all over the country.
On June 5th, 1968, an attempt on Robert Francis Kennedy’s life was made at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California, mere momentos after celebrating a tremendous victory in that states primary election. He succumbed to the injuries he sustained in the early hours of June 6th, 1968. He was 42 years old. His legacy and ideals remain just as powerful as ever and remain alive and well thanks to the work of his family, friends, and of course, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights foundation — and all of its headquarters the world over, in addition to the many partners with which the foundation works.