Robert Kennedy is sometimes called the forgotten Kennedy. Forty-eight years after his death, we sometimes forget the impact his life had on our country. However, any series on great men and persistence would be incomplete without him.
Like is brother, President John F. Kennedy, Robert Frances Kennedy was born into a wealthy and powerful family. Harvard educated, politically connected Bobby was off to a great start but was never taken seriously by the rest of his family.
That was until Jack’s 1952 Senate Campaign was in shambles and Bobby stepped in. At the age of 27, he was running one of the most pivotal senate races of the 20th century and he did so with ruthless efficiency. His brilliance at organizing the campaign won his brother a senate seat, but more importantly to him, he won his father’s respect.
His father used his connections to get him the job as assistant counsel on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s staff. He stayed until 1956 and was counted on as one of McCarthy’s most trusted advisors.
At the 1956 Democratic National Convention, it was Bobby, against his father’s wishes, that ran his brother’s bid for the Vice Presidential Nomination. Although he lost the nomination fight, the lessons he learned would come in extremely useful four years later.
When the convention closed, Kennedy went on the road with the Stevenson campaign. He took extensive notes about the campaign and again, developed an understanding of what it took to win a Presidential Campaign. After documenting all of Stevenson’s failures, Bobby returned to Boston and voted for Eisenhower.
When the 1957 Senate Session opened, Robert Kennedy was the chief counsel on the Senate Labor Racketeering Committee. As chief counsel, Bobby went toe to toe with Jimmy Hoffa and distinguished himself as a serious player in Washington. He was 32 years old.
In 1960, when Jack announced his candidacy for President, it was Bobby that was named Campaign Manager. Taking all of the lessons he learned in 1956, he flawlessly orchestrated a strategy that carried his brother to the White House.
In the Kennedy White House, Robert was officially named Attorney General of the United States, but in reality, he was much closer to his Brother’s Chief of Staff. Every major decision made in the Kennedy Administration was made with Robert Kennedy in the room.
When Nikita Khrushchev pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war, Bobby was a valued member of Ex-Com, the committee that the President counted on to determine strategy. When President Kennedy mobilized the Alabama National Guard to integrate the University of Alabama, it was Bobby who made the call. No one other than the President carried more influence in Washington than Robert Kennedy and hadn’t reached his 40th birthday.
And then he fell.
Robert Kennedy was holding a meeting by the pool at his Virginia home on November 22, 1963, when he got the call that his brother had been killed in Dallas Texas. His world collapsed.
One of the greatest blood feuds of American Politics was the hatred between Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy stayed on in the Johnson Administration until the end of 1963, but his heart wasn’t in it.
He became incredibly distant. He smoked his brother’s cigars, wore his brother’s flight jacket, read the book his brother loved and went for long walks alone on the beach. It seemed as if he might never recover. But he started his way back.
Speaking at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Robert honored his brother and became, for the first time in life, a star in his own right.
Winning a Senate seat from the New York in 1964, he became a champion of oppressed and downtrodden people everywhere. He traveled the world giving hope to the hopeless and inspiration to those who truly needed it. Working in the senate, he persisted in giving a voice to those who had none.
In 1968, out of opposition to what seemed like an endless war, and a government mistrusted by its people, Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for President of the United States. He was on his way to winning the Democratic Nomination when an assassin’s bullet cut him down.
Robert Kennedy experienced tremendous success early in his life. He brilliantly used his family connections, his intelligence, and ambition to climb quickly. When it seemed as if the sky were his limit, he fell as quickly as he rose. But through sheer persistence to see that his brother’s legacy fulfilled, he climbed back to stand taller than before his fall. Robert F. Kennedy was a true Profile In Persistence.