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Eulogy of Bobby Kennedy by Edward Kennedy


John Simkin
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Here is the full text of the speech made by Edward Kennedy on 8th June 1968 at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York:

On behalf of Mrs. Kennedy, her children, the parents and sisters of Robert Kennedy, I want to express what we feel to those who mourn with us today in this Cathedral and around the world.

We loved him as a brother, and as a father, and as a son. From his parents, and from his older brothers and sisters -- Joe and Kathleen and Jack -- he received an inspiration which he passed on to all of us. He gave us strength in time of trouble, wisdom in time of uncertainty, and sharing in time of happiness. He will always be by our side.

Love is not an easy feeling to put into words. Nor is loyalty, or trust, or joy. But he was all of these. He loved life completely and he lived it intensely.

A few years back, Robert Kennedy wrote some words about his own father which expresses [sic] the way we in his family felt about him. He said of what his father meant to him, and I quote: "What it really all adds up to is love -- not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it." And he continued, "Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention. There were people who were poor and needed help. And we have a responsibility to them and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off."

That is what Robert Kennedy was given. What he leaves to us is what he said, what he did, and what he stood for. A speech he made to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966 sums it up the best, and I would like to read it now:

"There is discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere. These are differing evils, but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility towards the suffering of our fellows. But we can perhaps remember -- even if only for a time -- that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek -- as we do -- nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men. And surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again. The answer is to rely on youth -- not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to the obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. They cannot be moved by those who cling to a present that is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger that come with even the most peaceful progress.

It is a revolutionary world we live in, and this generation at home and around the world has had thrust upon it a greater burden of responsibility than any generation that has ever lived. Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills. Yet many of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation; a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth; a young woman reclaimed the territory of France; and it was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the 32 year-old Thomas Jefferson who [pro]claimed that "all men are created equal."

These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. 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, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.

For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that event.

The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.* Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live."

That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us.

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:

"Some men see things as they are and say why.

I dream things that never were and say why not."

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In my opinion the most important statement against conservatism ever made....

Here is the full text of the speech made by Edward Kennedy on 8th June 1968 at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York....

Sorensonesque.

I am sure Ten Sorenson wrote the speech. Just think, RFK planned to appoint Sorenson as the head of the CIA. I would have loved to have heard the speech where he explained how the CIA killed JFK.

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I am sure Ten Sorenson wrote the speech. Just think, RFK planned to appoint Sorenson as the head of the CIA. I would have loved to have heard the speech where he explained how the CIA killed JFK.

A New Vision: The Speech I Want the Democratic Nominee To Give

by Theodore C. Sorensen

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/06/28/2157/

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Jimmy Carter also had tapped Sorenson for DCI. Just think ...

From Prelude to Terror by Joseph J Trento, page 108:

Jimmy Carter had campaigned against "the rogue CIA." He had promised to get the Agency under control. Even before he was sworn in, the Agency had considered Carter an enemy. Carter first nominated former Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorenson to be the new director, but the appointment failed when it became obvious that Sorenson could not get Senate backing because of his very liberal credentials. It was clear that if Carter could not get his first choice for CIA director through a Democratically controlled Senate, he was in for a very rough four years. On inauguration day, President Carter asked Hank Knoche to serve as acting director until Carter's next choice, Admiral Stansfield Turner, could be confirmed (which happened on March 9, 1977, about six weeks after Carter's inauguration).

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A similar eulogy to JFK was delivered by RFK at the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, complete with slide show - and a line inserted in the speech by Jackie.

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/rfk1964dnc.htm

LBJ had the tribute to JFK put off until after he was nominated and confirmed as the party's candidate because he thought that it would be used to spark a rally to nominate RFK.

And John S., how is it a statement against conservatism?

I don't think life can be so easily divided as liberal vs. conservatism, right wing vs. left wing and commies vs. fascists, as some small minded people insist on doing.

BK

Edited by William Kelly
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And John S., how is it a statement against conservatism?

I don't think life can be so easily divided as liberal vs. conservatism, right wing vs. left wing and commies vs. fascists, as some small minded people insist on doing.

BK

Well said, BK. The eulogy reflects the teachings of Jesus Christ [among others], that those who are blessed with abundance and opportunity have an obligation to share with those less fortunate.

Of course, since the right likes to claim Jesus Christ as their own, aren't these values more right-wing than left-wing values??? [Except when espoused by those on the left...then they're "communist values," I suppose...]

You're absolutely right, Bill...I fail to see exclusively left-wing OR exclusively right-wing values here, or any statements against conservatism.

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Ted Kennedy's finest moment. Along with the eloquent address he gave before the 1980 Democratic convention (also undoubtedly written by Sorensen), imho they are the two greatest speeches he ever delivered.

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And John S., how is it a statement against conservatism?

I don't think life can be so easily divided as liberal vs. conservatism, right wing vs. left wing and commies vs. fascists, as some small minded people insist on doing.

You're absolutely right, Bill...I fail to see exclusively left-wing OR exclusively right-wing values here, or any statements against conservatism.

My dictionary defines conservatism as “a political philosophy or attitude that emphasises respect for traditional institutions, distrust of government activism and opposition to sudden change in the established order.” The term derives from the Latin, conservāre, to conserve; "to keep, guard, observe". The philosophy of conservatism was revived by Edmund Burke in opposition to the radicalism of Tom Paine. In his writings Burke stresses “continuity and a preservation of our present institutions for fear that change could awaken the tempests and undermine the fragile social order.”

Edward Kennedy’s speech is full of references to those who attempted to change the social order. For example, he quotes Thomas Jefferson’s famous phrase "all men are created equal." This is a reference to the philosophy of Jesus Christ, whose teachings against conservatism resulted in him being executed.

A large part of the eulogy is made up of a speech made by Robert Kennedy in 1966 about the situation in South Africa. It starts with the statement: "There is discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere. These are differing evils, but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility towards the suffering of our fellows.”

This is a clear statement against inequality and addressing the situation faced by the black people in South Africa. Was this a statement shared by those promoting the philosophy of conservatism? No it was not. Can I remind you what conservatives believed about South Africa in the 1960s? They argued that the white apartheid government had brought stability to the country and was keeping it out of the hands of the communists. As late as the 1980s Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were arguing that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist and were vetoing attempts to impose effective sanctions against this racist regime.

Kennedy then goes on to the most important aspect of his speech: “Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence.”

As he points out, it takes courage to question the status quo if you are someone who is one of those who enjoy a privileged life. It is far easier to ignore the sufferings of the poor. You will be criticised by those who understandably fear they will lose out financially from any redistribution of wealth and power. This is the main reason why people advocate conservatism. It is a philosophy that attempts to justify their selfishness.

Kennedy goes onto argue that it is necessary to take on conservatism if a fairer society is going to be created: “Yet it (courage) is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.”

Kennedy finishes off with a very powerful phrase: "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not." This is a quotation from George Bernard Shaw. In 1882 he read the works of Karl Marx and as a result joined the Social Democratic Federation, Britain’s first revolutionary political party. He was also influenced by the writings of William Morris. Like a large number of writers and artists of this period, Shaw became a socialist and called for a radical reform of the capitalist society. He thought that it was possible to create a society based on equality. Of course, he was attacked in the way suggested by Robert Kennedy. However, Shaw had moral courage and stuck to his socialist beliefs. As he says: "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not."

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jshaw.htm

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He said:

It is a revolutionary world we live in, and this generation at home and around the world has had thrust upon it a greater burden of responsibility than any generation that has ever lived. Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills. Yet many of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation; a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth; a young woman reclaimed the territory of France; and it was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the 32 year-old Thomas Jefferson who [pro]claimed that "all men are created equal."

These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. 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, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

This is totally contrary to the Marxian view of history, of course. Great and inspirational words.

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To Mark and all:

THe moral obligation to help the poor is also set forth several times in the Book of Proverbs:

Ch 14, v. 31: He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

Ch 17, v 5: Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished. (The Lord is not a big fan of shaudenfreude. See also Ch 24, v. 17))

Ch 19, v.17: He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.

Ch 22, v. 2: The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.

Ch 22, v. 22-23: Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:

For the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.

Ch 25, v 21: If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.

Ch 28, v. 27 He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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He said:

It is a revolutionary world we live in, and this generation at home and around the world has had thrust upon it a greater burden of responsibility than any generation that has ever lived. Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills. Yet many of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation; a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth; a young woman reclaimed the territory of France; and it was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the 32 year-old Thomas Jefferson who [pro]claimed that "all men are created equal."

These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. 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, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

This is totally contrary to the Marxian view of history, of course. Great and inspirational words.

George Bernard Shaw and Robert Kennedy were not Marxists - although they were willing to defend Marxists from the attacks of conservatives.

It is of course easy to say that you find the speech inspiring. What matters is what you do about it. For example, was you like Robert Kennedy campaigning against the South African apartheid regime or were you supporting conservatives like Ronald Reagan who did what he could to maintain this racist government?

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I gave up one month of income to draw the attention of the Key West community to the terrors of human trafficking. This came close to making ME homeless. (And by the way, on the website for our anti-slavery rally at the Key West High School I included those very words from RFK. (Proving of course that I did not callthose words "inspiring" just for the purposes of this Forum.) For what it is worth I had a lot more support from the local Democrat Party than the Republican Party.

I support a church that has the most active program in the City of Key West to help the homeless and the poor.

Now, with respect to civil rights, can I ask if you will at least verbally on this Forum denounce the civil liberties record of the Castro regime and call for the immediate release of all political prisoners confined in Cuba's jails and in some cases mental institutions? Since you supported the boycot of South Africa to protest apartheid can I assume you also support the economic boycot of Cuba?

Edited by Tim Gratz
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