Saturday, January 03, 2009

Listening to RFK in 2009

I have to admit I don't know a lot about Robert F. Kennedy, but the little bits I've heard from my parents over the years, and what I've seen through historical movies (Thirteen Days) and now tonight in Bobby, greatly impresses me.

I found the playing of one of his speeches overlaying the closing scene particularly riveting. I did a little googling and found out that the speech was delivered the day after Martin Luther King's assassination, just two months before his own assassination. The speech talks to the problem of violence in America and provides some hope for what the world should, and could be. Maybe not as well known as King's I have a Dream speech and obviously not as current as Obama's speech on race in Philadelphia last year, but I feel RFK's speech about violence is still true to this day and one that we should all perhaps use as a warning on a global level. You can read the text of this short speech here.

On the Wikipedia page, I also found these other following great quotes, perhaps some guidance for our leaders and ourselves for 2009:
  • "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."[7]
  • "Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of 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 which yields most painfully to change."
  • "The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country."[35]
  • "Men without hope, resigned to despair and oppression, do not make revolutions. It is when expectation replaces submission, when despair is touched with the awareness of possibility, that the forces of human desire and the passion for justice are unloosed."[36]
  • "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not."[37]
  • "Few will have the greatness to bend history; 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 thus 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 which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."[38]
  • "At the University of Natal in Durban, I was told the church to which most of the white population belongs teaches apartheid as a moral necessity. A questioner declared that few churches allow black Africans to pray with the white because the Bible says that is the way it should be, because God created Negroes to serve. "But suppose God is black", I replied. "What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?" There was no answer. Only silence." South Africa, June 1966[39]
  • "What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black." Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4, 1968 Announcing to the crowd that Martin Luther King had been assassinated.
  • "Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it." From his last speech, June 5, 1968[40]
  • "Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws — but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us. Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted — when we tolerate what we know to be wrong — when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too frightened — when we fail to speak up and speak out — we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice." June 21, 1961[41]

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

The night of Obama's acceptance speech at the Dem Convention was a landmark moment for our generation, I thought. I looked at Michael and said "this is the closest to Camelot that I think we will ever get". No one person in our generation has risen above the others to provide inspiration in our leadership, and sadly, there looks to be no one on our Canadian horizon. Justin Trudeau, perhaps? Someone to follow his father's legacy? Only time can tell.