June 5th is the primary election for many states, including Alabama. On this date, we will choose the nominees of our respective parties (or narrow the field in the case of a runoff) and prepare for a general election to be held 5 months later.
But June 5, 2018 is also a reminder of a political day of yesteryear; a day of incredible hope and also seemingly unreal tragedy. 50 years ago next month, June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated walking into a hotel kitchen following his triumphant victory speech in the California primary. Historians and political experts still debate whether Kennedy would have gone on to win in 1968, but nobody doubts that momentum was on his side.
When RFK died, a generation of hope died with him. 3 transformational leaders in 5 years were taken from the American political landscape by an assassin’s bullet – JFK, MLK, and Bobby – who may have been the most unlikely of political icons. All 3 are immortalized in history, mainly for the hope they brought the country, but also because they were martyred in pursuit of a set of just causes. A better America; one more fair and more equal.
Bobby Kennedy represented the antithesis of so many of the issues we face today – a champion against corruption, a genuine compassion for the poorest Americans, and an appropriate humbleness that left him uncertain at times whether he was indeed called to step forward into the rigors of political leadership. Yet, he was fiercely determined not to sit silently while society suffered. He knew he could make a difference if the people were behind him — and they were.
I have read dozens of books on Bobby Kennedy. A new one seems to come out every other year, using a different author’s voice to retell the story of the man who, were it not for a wrong turn through a hotel kitchen, may have been the 37th President of the United States. By all historical accounts, Bobby Kennedy was genuine, transparent, and kind-hearted. But he was also a bulldog who knew policy, knew people, and knew politics. He had the pedigree and markings of a chief executive. Unfortunately for America, we will never know how good — or great — he may have been in that role.
Empathy in politics seems to be missing more and more often these days. But it doesn’t have to be. You have choices on the ballot that can restore the hope that has periodically eluded us the past 50 years. Dig deeper. Get to know the people who will represent you. Hold them to the highest standards. Expect greatness. Then, go make history in the voting booth.