Bobby Kennedy Abides

by Bob Schwartz

I’ve written before and frequently about Bobby Kennedy. I’m not the only one.

Last year saw the masterful biography, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon by Larry Tye, which is the current definitive work. This past June, The Revolution of Robert Kennedy: From Power to Protest After JFK by John R. Bohrer.

In just the past week, two more. Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews. And while it is broader than just Bobby, Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics by Lawrence O’Donnell  opens with a chapter about Bobby’s decision to run for President, a chapter called Seizing the Moment.

Why the abiding interest, and why now? In the face of an ever-challenging nation and world, politics was and can still be a rich and complicated weave of strength and weakness, resolve and resignation, pleasure and pain, ideals and pragmatism. Know that once and again soulfulness could and would stare down soullessness, however dark the times. And that it could and would be embodied in the life and work of complicated humane leaders who inspired us. No saints, just good people.

Rather than quote from these books, which should be read, here’s a portion of a poem that Bobby was partial to, and which I’ve recited before. It is the close of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses:

…Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.