“It was a moment if you like when politics stopped in America,” said Sean O’Rourke of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. 50 years on from his murder, Sean was joined in studio by Dr Daniel Geary, Associate Professor in American History at Trinity College and Larry Donnelly, Bostonian and Law Lecturer in NUI Galway to discuss how RFK’s death changed the course of American history.
Taking it back to the beginning, Larry spoke about Bobby’s early years.
“As a child, I think Bobby was a little bit different than the rest of his siblings… He was a little bit shy, he was a little bit timid. He and his father had a rather distant relationship which I suppose is kind of at odds with the Bobby Kennedy that I suppose most people would remember but he then like others in his family went into public service. He served as counsel to committees investigating in the Senate and he did some time in journalism as a matter of fact and then ultimately started to work on his brother’s Senate campaign in 1952.”
Daniel spoke about his reputation as a ruthless political force and pointed out that actually, he and his older brother John weren’t close until they started working together on John’s campaign for Senate.
“They weren’t that close but when Bobby came along to the campaign at the suggestion of his father, he proved to actually be a very, very shrewd political operative. Indeed without Bobby, it’s hard to imagine his brother having the political career that he did, you know, winning very difficult races for Senate and then obviously for the Presidency.”
Bobby himself was something of a reluctant politician, only deciding late in the race to run for Senator in 1964 and for President in 1968, a race he never finished as he was shot on June 5th, just as he had won the California and South Dakota primary elections for democratic nomination.
“This is 1968, a year of real tumult in the United States where the country was riven by the Vietnam war and indeed I don’t think the significance of what happened can be underscored sufficiently for African Americans given that this was a year in which they lost Martin Luther King and they also lost Bobby Kennedy, somebody who perhaps in an unparalleled sense spoke directly to them and directly to the issues… It really was a big, big setback in every sense, another setback for the civil rights movement in the United States so beyond politics this was a seminal moment.”
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