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Book Excerpt: RFK: Promise for the Future

Robert F. Kennedy: Promise for the Future

Written by Arlene Schulman
Published by Facts on File

Kennedy listened to people whose voices were rarely heard - poor blacks and whites, people without jobs, farmers, Indians on reservations suffering from alcoholism, Mexican-American migrant workers, college students protesting against the Vietnam War, Hispanics living in public housing projects, the children of the slums. "Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured," he said, quoting the writer Albert Camus. "But we can reduce the number of tortured children. And if you believers don't help us, who else in the world can help us do this?"

In a speech in California, he said, "Our brave young men are dying in the swamps of Southeast Asia. Which one of them might have written a poem? Which one of them might have cured cancer? Which one of them might have played in the World Series or given us the gift of laughter from the stage or helped build a bridge or a university? It is our responsibility to let these men live. . .It is indecent if they die because of the empty vanity of our country."

Students chanted, cheered, and stamped their feet. Priests and nuns who wore Kennedy bumper stickers across their cornets turned out and waved to him as he sat on the hood of the car. Hundreds of people walked or ran alongside of his convertible. People waited for hours to catch a glimpse of him or to touch him.

"I found that they wanted not to just to touch a celebrity; they wanted to convey their feelings to him, and he accepted it for that," said his security man, Bill Barry.

Kennedy did not believe in security. "We can't have that kind of country - where the President of the United States is afraid to go among the people. I won't ride around in an armored car," he said. "If anyone wants to kill me, it won't be difficult." He said that there were no guarantees against assassination. "You've just got to give yourself to the people and to trust them, adn from then on. . .either (luck is) with you or it isn't. I am pretty sure there'll be an attempt on my life sooner or later. Not so much for political reasons," he sadded, "Plain nuttiness, that's all."

The poet Robert Lowell recalled that "he felt he was doomed, and you knew that he felt that. . . He knew that , and he had no middle course possible to him."


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