RFK died forty years ago today. Just like MLK, I was three years from being born. Again, just like MLK, I think of him practically every day. He both inspires me and reminds me of myself – a bit overzealous and eager to prove himself as a young person (have you ever seen him question Jimmy Hoffa?), but mellowing with age. What might he have done with more time? What will I do with mine?
He had a wonderful grace about him and magical way of inspiring even the most downtrodden. I love watching footage of him interacting with crowds. I am amazed at how people wanted so badly to touch him that he needed members of his staff to hold him about the waist, to keep him tethered, so to speak. Otherwise, he would have disappeared into the throng there to see him. He never seemed frightened or perturbed either, only eager to shake one more hand. The footage I love most, however, is of him interacting with children – his own or perfect stangers. There was no denying his love and concern for their welfare.
And then, there were his words. Here are, in my opinion, a few of his most inspiring quotations.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.