Robert Kennedy was an idealist and one of the leading politicians of his generation. He was the brother of President John Kennedy but was never over-shadowed by him and carved out a hugely successful political career of his own.
Robert Francis Kennedy, more often known as Bobby, was born on 20 November 1925 into a leading Irish American family in Boston, Massachusetts.
He was a member of the Democratic Party and a symbol of modern American liberalism. He served as a White House adviser to President Kennedy from 1961 to 1963. During this time, he supported the African-American Civil Rights Movement, and worked to reduce organised crime and the power of the mafia.
He was as a Senator for New York from 1965 until he was assassinated 6 June 1968.
Kennedy was a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1968 election. During the campaign on 5 June 1968, he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan – a 24-year old Palestinian, and he died the next day on the 6 June 1968.
These are some of quotes taken at various stages of his career.
Extracts from Day of Affirmation address delivered at the University of Capetown, South Africa (June 6, 1966).
“Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard, to share in the decisions of government which shape men’s lives. Everything that makes man’s life worthwhile — family, work, education, a place to rear one’s children and a place to rest one’s head — all this depends on the decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people, and I mean all of its people. Therefore, the essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer — not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, or a particular race, but to all its people.”
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I was the seventh of nine children. When you come from that far down you have to struggle to survive.
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The next quote is from a speech on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968). It is also Inscribed on the Robert F. Kennedy graveside at Arlington National Cemetery.
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.
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This quote is from the speech given the day after the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination Ohio, April 5, 1968.
What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet. No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason. Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
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From Kennedy’s Value of Dissent speech in Nashville, Tennessee 21 March 1968.
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This is Kennedy’s tribute to his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, read at his father’s funeral, November 20, 1969.
He has called on the best that was in us. There was no such thing as half-trying. Whether it was running a race or catching a football, competing in school—we were to try. And we were to try harder than anyone else. We might not be the best, and none of us were, but we were to make the effort to be the best. “After you have done the best you can”, he used to say, “the hell with it”.
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Extract from Day of Affirmation address delivered at the University of Capetown, South Africa (June 6, 1966).
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The next two quotes are from The Pursuit of Justice (1964).
Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.
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In my judgment, the slogan “black power” and what has been associated with it has set the civil rights movement back considerably in the United States over the period of the last several months.
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Kennedy announcing death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Kennedy was in Indiana and had received the news just minutes before. On that night, after Robert Kennedy made this announcement, Indiana did not have any riots or any civil disobedience, one of the few cities to be silent that night.
Robert Kennedy acknowledged that he was paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw when he said;
There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
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