“I am today announcing my candidacy for the presidency of the United States.I do not run for the presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new policies. I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I'm obliged to do all that I can....
At stake is not simply the leadership of our party and even our country. It is our right to moral leadership of this planet.”
----Senator Robert Kennedy, March 16, 1968
A half century ago, Senator Robert Kennedy appearing in the Senate Caucus Room, the very same room in which his brother had launched his presidential campaign 8 years earlier, stepped up to the podium and with these words announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. In what historian Thurston Clarke would later call “The Last Campaign” (1), Kennedy, a half century ago today, began what can only be described as an odyssey; a journey in which he would grapple with his tumultuous times and by so doing transform not only his party but leave an indelible political legacy that tugs upon the national conscience calling upon our better angels. Eighty two days later, Robert Kennedy would be dead.
Thurston began his account with the funeral train from New York to Washington D.C., as the countryside gathered along the route to pay respect to a man who had come to mean so much. Years later MSNBC newsman Chris Matthews, himself chronicling the campaign would note the composition of those that gathered along the miles of railroad tracks. Blacks and white, young and old, protestant and catholic, people from every walk of life standing along the tracks holding flags, standing in salute, holding signs in a demonstration of reverence not seen since the funeral train of Franklin Roosevelt made its way north from Georgia.
- Clarke, Thurston. “The Last Campaign, Robert Kennedy andthe 82 days that Inspired America” Henry Holt and CompanyNew York, New York 1968. 321 pages.