Forty years ago today -- June 5, 1968 -- presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was shot inside a Los Angeles hotel, just a couple of minutes after he declared victory in the California primary and had thus bolstered his chances for winning the Democratic nomination. He was rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead on the following day, June 6.
Bobby Kennedy was a U.S. senator (in the New York seat now held by Hillary Clinton) and the U.S. attorney general under his brother, President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963. His death seems like a long time ago, but the issues that he spoke about in his short and ill-fated 1968 campaign -- war, poverty, and justice -- still burn as brightly today.
I was just 9 years old, and in the third grade, when Bobby Kennedy was killed. But the memory of that day -- of the disconcerting sadness of the adults around me, the notion that I was a child born into a violent world that was driving off the cliff of sanity and reason, and of hearing the static-ridden bulletin that RFK has been pronounced dead blasting from a passing AM car radio as I walked to elementary school that warm June morning -- will always remain with me.
The world held together -- although some days I wonder. And 40 years later we are rightfully more prone to celebrate the way he lived rather than the way he died -- especially with one remarkable speech. On April 4, 1968, Kennedy was about to address a racially mixed rally in Indianapolis when news arrived of yet another assassination, Martin Luther King. Here is a part of what RFK told his audience that night -- with no teleprompter, no focus groups, and no time to prepare: