Ted Kennedy's Eulogy for his brother Bobby

    Fifty years ago today, Ted Kennedy delivered a eulogy for his brother Bobby considered by some to be the most profound speech of his career.  Katie Mettler at WaPo today offered an excellent writeup of that moment.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/06/08/those-he-to...

    A few highlights of Mettler's article for me:

    ...at the funeral, it seemed right that Ted Kennedy — the youngest Kennedy child and last living son — would deliver his brother’s eulogy...

    In his own words, Ted Kennedy then spoke of America’s future.

    “Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control,” he said. “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.”

    Then, he added: “That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us.”

    At the end of the eulogy, Ted Kennedy’s voice quavered over the words with which he left the crowd.

    “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,” he said. “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.”

    He paused, regaining his composure to quote Bobby a final time: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

    Some who celebrate his life assert that he was likely to win the presidency, and that course of our history in the years following his death would have been dramatically different, and much for the better. 

    He continued to face a difficult and uncertain struggle even to win the Democratic nomination. 

    Had he been elected president, things would have been different, for sure.  The hard-headed rather than romantic view, and one which I suspect RFK himself would have held, was reflected in a comment offered by one of his admirers.  I am unable to locate it, unfortunately.  Paraphrasing from memory, it ran something like this: "Bobby would either have been the greatest president in our history or he would have been a disaster."

    RFK died a martyr.  He was a complicated person, described as "mercurial" by one of his biographers, Evan Thomas.  He changed his mind at times, in the face of changing circumstances, events, and his own constantly evolving interpretations of their import. 

    He had, to an unusual degree for a politician, an ability to attract not only support, but belief, from people who otherwise mistrusted and disagreed strongly with one another.  No doubt some of this was due to what at the time was "Kennedy mystique" influencing some.  Some surely was due to sympathy in the wake of his brother's death and perhaps other tragedies his family had suffered. 

    But some was due to a recognition, sometimes grudging, that some of the things he managed to accomplish in public life were extremely difficult and commanded respect for his intelligence, competence, and ability to handle challenges which would have left most public officials floundering badly.  You might not have agreed with what he believed and did.  But he was formidable, adaptable, determined, and tough.  You always knew he would be able to explain what he was doing, and why, and in a way that anyone could understand.

    The consequences which the continuation of his life might have had for our country are inherently unknowable.  What is not is that Robert F. Kennedy's life instilled, for many hard-headed, hard-bitten, skeptical people, grounds for hope that our country might, just might, be able to emerge from frightening times with a sense that our hands could yet create a better destiny if we could hold at bay our doubts and mistrust and work for it.    





    Michael Eric Dyson tells the story of a meeting between RFK, James Baldwin, and a roux of black intellectuals and artists. RFK expected a cordial meeting but found himself under attack for being ignorant of black issues. The same story is playing out today.


    ​This comes from Dyson’s new book “What Truth Sounds Like”.


    ​In a television interview, Dyson noted that RFK took the criticism in stride, and crafted policy to address black issues.



    David Margolick, in The Promise and the Dream, devotes attention to this meeting, which was searing for RFK and was part of his evolution on race issues.  One of the things about RFK that I admire was that he was not only capable of learning and revising his views, but that he did so, on many matters (including the Vietnam War as well, as another example).  On Margolick's account the key person in that meeting was Jerome Smith, a Freedom Rider associated with the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE).  Smith had suffered significant long-term damage to his health on account of beatings he had taken. 

    The statement Smith made that raised RFK's ire in that meeting was that there was not a chance that he would serve in the military to defend this country.  RFK's reaction was that that was outrageous. He had no way of interpreting those comments other than that Smith was a disrespectful, unpatriotic person.  RFK was seriously angered by what he was hearing but he found it within himself to, and did, listen.  He ended up understanding, at least, even if he did not in the end agree with Smith's view, why and how someone with black skin who had been through what Smith had been through might feel that way.  And it was one among many experiences he had, that he was open to, that changed him, that opened him up and moved him away from some earlier rigid ways of thinking.   

    Lorraine Hansberry's remarks also may have been especially impactful in that meeting.  As you probably know, she had her own very interesting story, which ended sadly with an early death due to cancer, which apparently devastated Baldwin.     

    Thank you for the references, rmrd0000.

    You are welcome. We don’t have politicians who want to hear the truth. We are supposed to sugarcoat discussions to make whites feel comfortable.

    Trump gave a rambling, incoherent speech at the G7 conference this morning. Trump is damaging our relationship with Europe. The man is not mentally stable. His supporters overlook the obvious. I think attempts to convert these voters are futile compared to getting out people who did not vote and third party voters.


    and third party voters.

    A lot of those people voted for Trump! You seem to have this need to label the actual swing and third party voters that helped him go over the top and win as true Trump fan "deplorables" and hardcore racists and the like. That's not what happened. He had to get more than those to win. I try to read the opinions of people like that to get a gist where they are coming from, and I don't see lot of them getting on board with saying he's the worst ever, they might wish now they hadn't chose him but they are not going to get on board with being called the worst scum ever for voting for him. It's more like they think all politicians they voted for previously ended up sucking, didn't deliver on their promises and then "it's the economy stupid", until his fuckups start showing, they are gonna tell the pollster that they generally approve of the job he's doing and that like all previous they may have voted for (i.e. Obama, I think you still avoid the topic of Obama/Trump voters with cognitive dissonance) he's not perfect.

    There is a hardcore nasty conservative 1/3 in this country for decades. The rest of his approval rating is swings, independents etc. You need some of those to win the presidency. Given the electoral college, getting out the black vote, one of your favorite things, doesn't apply to the presidency (except maybe in Wisconsin, where blacks staying home really did hurt). Just like getting out more of the vote in NYC isn't going to affect a damn thing as to who wins the presidency.

    To win the presidency, you have to get a significant number of that 8% that is still giving him a positive approval rating over and above the 33% that is hard core. Especially because they are in swing states. There's too many red and purple states for a true blue president to win, that's the problem, it's really that simple.

    Edit to add: That is precisely why Obama played to moderates and conservative Christians and tried to sell bipartisan creds and the like in his first campaign. That's how Obama won, getting some of those "deplorables." A perfect example is that both Obama and Trump called the Iraq war a stupid war while making clear that they were not against all wars nor against targeting terrorists with drone assassinations and the like. Obama and his first lady were also more authentically pro-military-families than Trump has been so far, that's anotherexample of another kind of thing that sells to what some might label "deplorables."

    Democrats have won 42 seats since Trump got elected. Democrats have been appealing to a host of voters. You may have missed the memo.

    Trumps approval sits at 41.6 at 538. This is up from prior months. Trump contradicts himself in each speech. I look at the Democratic victories despite the increase in Trump approval. I think Democrats are drawing from voters who are not Trump supporters.


    Democrats have lost about 1,000 seats during Obama's two terms as president. That's a stunning loss of power in a short period of time. Winning 42 back doesn't fill me with glee. To turn that around democrats are going to have to get some swing voters and republican voters who voted for Trump.

    Trump’s approval is up. It will probably increase after meeting with Kim. I don’t see a message from Democrats that will change that.

    Edit to add:

    You can only win elections if they have an election.

    I saw him on Bill Maher 

    Dyson was great.

    We, as humans might progress instead of regress.

    I always liked Dyson. I just thought he was more thoughtful with Bill last night.


    I happened to run across Joe Scarborough's tribute to RFK at WaPo from two years ago, I surmise I ran across it because they had the link up because of the anniversary. I had no idea he was a fan but apparently he is a big one, yesterday he had RFK's picture up on his Twitter home page. In any case the reasons why he is fan are idiosyncratic and quite a different take from the usual, so it was quite interesting.

    [Edit to correct the age of the article.]

    Thanks. I was aware that Scarborough was a fan but had not looked into what, if anything, he had said as to why.  

    The formative speech, and event, of my life. 



    You are welcome.  If you are comfortable elaborating a bit, how would you describe the impact the speech had on you at the time and going forward?  What about it had such impact on you?

    If you are comfortable elaborating a bit

    Do you know Quinn?  wink

    I suspected that "q" is Quinn.  Sure, I remember him from earlier days at dagblog.  I don't recall anything he wrote about this but I might just have missed it. 

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