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
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."