“THE UNFINISHED ODYSSEY OF ROBERT KENNEDY,” BY DAVID HALBERSTAM

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Back in the early 1990’s a gentleman, in a suit and tie, walked into the Palm Restaurant on a Saturday night. He was in his late sixties, maybe early seventies, and he was the first customer in the restaurant that night. He sat at one of my tables, and was waiting on two more guests. He ordered a drink, and after bringing it to him, he asked me where I was from? I told him that I was from the Bronx, but that my father was from Lawrence, Massachuetts.

He knew quite a bit about both places and he went on to tell me that as a political advisor, he had been in every state, and just about every city and town. I asked him who he worked for, and he answered Senator Robert Kennedy. He was his top advisor in the 1968 presidential campaign that ended with the tragic assassination of Mr. Kennedy.

He went on to tell me that whatever anyone thought about President John Kennedy was one thing, and as for Senator Ted Kennedy he simply waved his hand and remarked, “That’s another thing all together.”

He paused, as he looked out the window onto Santa Monica Blvd and then turned back to me with tears in his eyes and said, “But Robert Kennedy was the ‘best man’ I have ever known, and if anyone you know talks bad about him they didn’t really know the man.”

Over the years, I have told that story to only a few people, usually only people who I know really liked Mr. Kennedy like my lovely wife.

Mr. Halberstam’s book about the 1968 campaign, verifies all that the gentleman told me that night and Mr. Halberstam, in my opinion, is one of the great historians of our time. He gives you the facts, and does not sugar coat any of them.

Robert Kennedy was a unique politician, and sadly there have been few, if any, like him since the time of his death. He evolved as a fairly conservative, anti-communist politician and trouble shooter for his brother the President, into a moral, intelligent, and compassionate human being the likes of which so few politicians in the history of this country have ever witnessed.

He knew the world like few politicians ever had, travelled and talked to the downtrodden in the ghettos, the less educated in the distant mountain towns in many of our states, and helped the farmers and Mexicans at a time when it was not popular. He came out against the war in Vietnam, against his own party’s platform, and to the disgust of President Lyndon Johnson.

He championed the causes of black Americans when his advisors told him it wasn’t a wise thing to do, and besides they didn’t vote anyway. Yet, in 1968 Blacks and Mexican Americans showed up at the polls in record numbers to cast their vote for the only candidate who truly saw and understood their suffering, talked to them, and made promises they knew he would keep.

Like so many Americans, I have always wondered what the world would have been like if Robert Kennedy had lived, got his party’s nomination, and defeated one of the most corrupt, morally bankrupt human beings of all times. It certainly would have been much better, and the future of this country some forty years later I have no doubt a kinder, less bitter, place to live than it is now.

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