The last time we saw Robert Francis Kennedy, he was a 42-year-old presidential candidate half a century ago. Twentieth of the millennium. However, the light of your memory still shines.
Most of the world's population cannot remember June 4, 1968, a day that began for Kennedy with a tragedy avoided only to culminate in his own murder shortly after midnight.
This harrowing day began while I was at Hollywood Director John Frankenheimer's beach house in Malibu. Kennedy, his 12-year-old son, David, and his three-year-old son, Max, played on the edge of the surf. David took a cold dive into the ocean and was submerged and trapped by a torn hangover. His father ran to the beach and dived headfirst into the turbulent waves to rescue his son from drowning. Both emerged from the ocean scraped and bruised by the deep sea and the Pacific torrent, but the tragedy was anticipated.
Frankenheimer, who had a great deal of makeup experience, brushed up Kennedy's forehead before the candidate later appeared in front of the national press and television cameras.
Kennedy's arduous presidential campaign was in full swing as he watched the results come from the California primaries. It would be a great victory for the New York senator, and the celebration would be held at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. His victory speech was full of vigor, humor and enthusiasm. The all-important Democratic National Convention in Chicago appeared and Kennedy encouraged himself, encouraging his followers to move on: "Now, let's go to Chicago and let's win there."
The hotel Embassy's overwhelming crowd continued to grow as the victorious candidate was led down a ramp through the double doors of a kitchen. Fifteen minutes past midnight, between the ice machine and the stainless steel heating tables, quick shots fired. Kennedy was hit four times (including pasture) by 22 caliber bullets fired by a 24-year-old Palestinian. Supposedly dissatisfied with Kennedy's vote to support Israel following the senator's speech in a Polish synagogue a week earlier, the killer emptied his weapon, injuring five others.
Just two months after spontaneously addressing an astonished crowd in Indianapolis shortly after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy himself would be killed by a lone assassin. The 1968 turmoil peaked as the Vietnam War continued and the body bags full of American soldiers continued.
Many historians suggest that this spring of 1968 was the lowest point in the nation's collective psyche since the Civil War. Civil rights progress was halted dramatically with the two murders, and the prospect of an eternal war in Indochina seemed assured. It seemed that the country was crumbling as racial riots and mass marches were ubiquitous.
The Democratic National Convention following the Kennedy assassination 12 weeks later demonstrated the breach in the country more than any other event. Anti-war protesters clashed with Chicago police and national guards at Grant Park, Michigan Avenue, and the Chicago International Amphitheater in front of a national television audience.
The long, creeping Kennedy funeral train that transported his coffin from New York to Washington on June 8, recalls Abraham Lincoln's railway journey more than 100 years earlier. Thousands of people mourned the trails that wished to bid a final farewell to the man who most embodied representation for the poor, underprivileged and unprivileged.
Always in love with literature and poetry, Robert Kennedy liked to attribute George Bernard Shaw's words to his own ideals. Many of Kennedy's speeches included his vision: "Some people see things as they are and say why. I dream of things they never were and say, why not."
Robert Kennedy's public service has certainly evolved over the years. He began his career in Washington as Chief Advisor to the Senate Racket Committee, where he fought Jimmy Hoffa and other underworld characters. He left the committee to run his brother's presidential campaign when he honed his own image as a loyal, ruthless, and determined organizer.
After being appointed Attorney General of the United States, RFK turned his attention to fighting rampant organized crime, improving the injustice of segregation and addressing widespread poverty in this country. He was a leading catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement and served as President Kennedy's most trusted and valuable advisor on domestic and global issues.
It was the wise advice of Robert Kennedy that helped neutralize the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 that threatened the entire world with nuclear war.
Kennedy, the father of 11 children, was a man of great patience and compassion. He identified with and empathized with those suffering from poverty, disease, or oppression, despite growing up in a family of exorbitant wealth. He took to the streets of Mississippi to get a close look at impoverished people who had no political voice. Bobby learned the sorrows of firsthand people, whether in America's slums or apartheid South Africa, and took their sufferings seriously.
He was by the side of Civil Rights leaders when it came time for the nation to rewrite its policies of segregation and prejudice. He was the main agent of change that allowed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to come to fruition.
It was Robert Kennedy who teamed up with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union to give farmers and migrant workers representation and voice as they struggled with low wages, dehumanizing treatment and poor working conditions.
And of course, he built his political platform around the end of the Vietnam War, which waged nearly five years after his death.
Brother Ted Kennedy at St. Patrick's Cathedral praised his dead brother in discreet words that Robert himself could have chosen.
"My brother need not be idealized or raised in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man who saw the wrong and tried to correct it; saw the suffering and tried to cure it; war and tried to stop it. "
Five decades have passed since Robert Francis Kennedy was removed and, unfortunately, we have not seen people like him since.