It’s been 50 years since the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. I remember when it happened. It was only a few months after the shooting of Martin Luther King so the nation had just experienced the loss of another great leader. It was one of those times in American life when things stopped for a while and people cried and mourned in disbelief.
Since Robert Kennedy was killed, over 1.5 million Americans have died from gunshot injuries.
And it continues.
Bobby’s family somehow moved on with the grace and dignity shown after the assassination of President John Kennedy. Now, another brother. Another father. Another uncle. Another husband. Another cousin.
I had the honor to serve on the Brady Board of Trustees with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the oldest of the Kennedy children. She became a strong advocate for gun violence prevention and many other causes in which she believes. Here are some of her reflections on this momentous anniversary:
“‘How do we make moral choices? How do we help our fellow human being?'” Townsend said. “That is the most meaningful thing you can do.”
And it was their faith in the answers he offered that helped him build a coalition that’s implausible, if not impossible, to imagine today. “He could speak to white working class men and women because they trusted him that he would fight for them, and he also fought for African-Americans,” said Townsend. “If you talked to those who met him, you never sensed that he felt he was better than you. He was with you.”
Stopping the shootings of our children and innocent Americans is a moral choice. Our job is to help our fellow human beings do the right thing. That is why I am doing this work and remaining a fierce advocate for gun safety reform that can save lives.
And I believe that Bobby Kennedy would not have been influenced by the corporate gun lobby. In 1968 the NRA was a very different kind of organization than what it has now become. When Kennedy ran for President the NRA was an organization to support hunters and teach gun safety. Now it is an extremist group that accounts for about 1.8% of Americans with influence it should not have. We need more leaders like Bobby Kennedy to stand up to the corporate gun lobby instead of the lapdogs we have sitting in their seats refusing to stand up for the victims of gun violence.
Tomorrow the country will mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Many will be there to share their memories, to represent victims, to praise Robert Kennedy. From the linked article:
On Wednesday, Kerry Kennedy will join former president Bill Clinton at her father’s resting place in Arlington National Cemetery, for a memorial service marking the 50th anniversary of his death. Civil rights hero John Lewis, 78, and 18-year-old gun control activist Emma González will be among those reading quotations from the slain senator’s works. Two are inscribed in granite near the plain white cross at his grave: “Some men see things as they are and ask ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’” and: “… each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope …”
It is so fitting that one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting survivors will be in attendance. For she would have been honored by the Bobby Kennedy of 1968. She represents those whose voices can’t be heard just as Kennedy’s voice was taken from him far too soon. He would have stood with the victims and survivors and cried with them and acted on their behalf.
His potential to be a great leader was snuffed out in seconds by a gunman. Bullets end lives quickly leaving memories, legacies, unrealized potential and talent behind in aftermath.
What could have been different about our country if Bobby Kennedy had become our President? It may be an exercise in futility to wonder that but it’s interesting to think about what could have been given his positions and his passion for justice.
Compared to what we have now, our country would be a different place. We might actually have passion for people who need our help. We might actually be doing something about racism, about gun violence, about immigration and social justice.
The people seemed to sense that about Kennedy as his body was carried by train across the country while thousands of Americans waved and grieved along the side of the tracks.
My last post was about memories of gun violence victims. Bobby Kennedy was a gun violence victim.
Today I remember him and think about what could have been. I was honored to be invited to attend the ceremony but was unable to attend. I will be watching as it is televised.
Today we should all remember that our country does not have to tolerate this senseless loss of life. We can prevent shootings. We can do something about easy access to guns. We can pass stronger gun laws. We can change the conversation and the culture of gun violence. We can save lives. We can be a country with common sense approaches to the gun violence epidemic affecting our country.
We remember Robert F. Kennedy.