“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”

Robert Francis Kennedy, from “Conflict in Vietnam and at Home” speech at Kansas State University on March 18, 1968 as part of the Alfred M. Landon Lectures on Public Issues.


Photograph of Robert F. Kennedy in 1964 via Wikipedia

Robert Francis Kennedy (November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968) was an American lawyer and politician who served as the 64th United States Attorney General and as a U.S. Senator from New York until his assassination in June 1968. “Bobby” Kennedy was born outside Boston on November 20, 1925. He was the seventh of nine children. Of the children Robert was said to be the gentlest and shyest of the family. His brother John (JFK) was ill, often bedridden, but sometimes took young Robert out on walks. John sometimes called Robert “Black Robert” due to his disposition. His father (Joseph Sr.) dubbed him the “runt” of the family and wrote him off early, and his brothers followed suit, although Robert and John would become close again in later years. This drew Robert and his mother (Rose) together. Robert took to heart his mother’s belief for everything to have “a purpose,” and she encouraged Robert throughout life. Despite this, Robert was a poor student, a “misfit”, and bounced through private boarding schools until he graduated the 12th grade. He quickly enlisted in the navy, disliking it, serving until 1946. During this time his eldest brother Joseph died in the line of duty during WWII. In September 1946, Robert entered Harvard as a junior, and played football. Following familial traits he became interested in law and politics and enrolled at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville in 1948. This was his launch point. After becoming assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, he gained national attention as the chief counsel of the Senate Labor Rackets Committee from 1957 to 1959. Robert resigned from the committee to conduct his brother’s successful campaign in the 1960 presidential election. He was appointed United States Attorney General at the age of 36. He served as his brother’s closest advisor until his tragic 1963 assassination. This spurred him. In 1968, following his brother’s footsteps, Robert became a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Shortly after winning the California primary around midnight on June 5, 1968, Robert was shot with a pistol. He died 25 hours later. He is known for advocating for the civil rights movement, the fight against organized crime and the Mafia, and involvement in U.S. foreign policy related to Cuba. In office, Robert opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and raised awareness of poverty by sponsoring legislation designed to lure private business to blighted communities. Robert is buried close to his brother John in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River.

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