I originally started this note “dear robert kennedy.” Then I quickly saw how hard it was to “write a letter to” someone who idolize. So I switched it up.
I can’t believe it’s been 40 years since RFK was assassinated. RFK’s life and death has impacted a part of who I am. At some point between senior year in high school and graduation from college, I became a huge fan. I ended up buying/reading over twenty books, read hundreds of articles, read his speeches countless times, etc. The Kennedys mainstream appeal is in their aura, glamor, and how they evoke the memory of a bygone golden age. There’s some of that for me, but more so, I’ve always identified with RFK. He was the scrappy younger brother. He couldn’t measure up to big brothers Joe or Jack. He was smaller, lacked polish, wasn’t as smart. But holy shit was he scrappy, passionate, fiery, and loyal. He was the very definition of tenacity. His brother’s death destroyed him. Afterwards, he was completely fatalistic. Anyway, for many reasons, RFK’s character totally hooked me. Forty years ago today, he was assassinated in a kitchen.
There’s so much to RFK. It’s hard to tear away the mythmaking to get at the real man. To not just lionize him as perfection. So I want to stay focused on a couple of things.
1) The line Ted quotes of Bobby, who’s actually quoting Shaw, is epic. We should all strive for it:
“Some men see things as they are, and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?”
We limit our own possibilities. This, more than many things, is a fatal problem. We fail to re-imagine. We accept. We only go lower. Rarely higher. This quote gave me goosebumps when I first heard it. It does no less today.
2) A favorite blog, eotw, linked to this video today. While watching it I almost spit up. It’s a youtube video (below) of brother teddy’s eulogy of bobby. While I don’t care much for the mashup of pictures & audio – I still love the speech. So I played it while I ate lunch at my desk today. I looked up every 20 seconds or so while I listened on my headphones. Towards the end, I look up and I almost choked. There was a photo of me. Seriously. They were a bunch of habitat for humanity photos, and there was a photo of a group of college kids hunched over in front of the house they had helped to build. At Rutgers I was part of a group that went to FL to help out for a week during spring break. (one of my very best memories, by the way) And somehow, that photo ended up in that person’s pile as he was making the video. Ridiculously random.
If that picture was on any random video, I would have thought it hilarious. On a RFK video, that I see on the 40th anniversary of his death feels like more. Sometimes life is nuts like that.
Anyway, if you haven’t yet read up on brother Bobby, today is a good day. This newsweek article by the author of my favorite biography of RFK is a great place to start.
JFK gets all the love. But RFK is the one that helped shape me.
5/27/13 – Wow. I totally forgot this happened. Unfortunately, the video is off Youtube now, but what a cool coincidence.