Robert Francis Kennedy

The sadness born out of realising you can’t please everyone

Robert Francis Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy cared, he really cared, deeply, he felt other peoples’ pain and could not stand by and see injustice, poverty or prejudice without doing something about it. Yet, in the end, his personality was such that he could not be a political pragmatist and pick a side, or even some sides, he made the futile attempt to unite all people. He couldn’t look the other way, he couldn’t let it go, he had to address it. As he said: “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.” And he meant it, he proved it. He took on the corrupt unions, he spoke out and legislated against racism, (before the term was coined) and he stood on picket lines, walked on marches against poverty and injustice. He bravely fought organised crime, indeed in his tenure as Attorney General prosecutions against organised crime rose 800%.

We think Bobby Kennedy was an ENFJ, caring, serious, practical, willing to get his hands dirty but ultimately unable, as anyone would be, to unite disparate, warring factions with their own self-interests, which means he could not get a coalition and given his personality, he only wanted to bring everyone together, to change the world, rather than do it piecemeal. In his report to the US government he tried to explain that fundamental change needed to happen, we can’t alter the fact, but we can affect the nature of how it happens: “A revolution is coming, a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough, but a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.” This is a real, global, carer, someone who wore his care on his face and in his heart but whose desire to help everyone meant he was ultimately going to fail, as you can’t please all the folks all the time. He fought union bosses, the Mafia, he was a tough cookie, he did not back down from a fight. But the fact that he could not stand by and let bad stuff happen means he created many friends, but also many enemies as he wanted to overturn the existing order. The way he progressed the prosecution of Jimmy Hoffa, the corrupt leader of the Teamsters Union, became a personal vendetta, with Hoffa claiming there was “bad blood,” between them. But Kennedy could not let it go as in his heart that would be moral cowardice.

In respect of Civil Rights, the Director of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover, believed that Martin Luther King was a troublemaker and dangerous element for the US, indeed called him, “an enemy of the state,” but Kennedy believed in civil rights and in King, although he advised King to disassociate himself from some of his advisors who were allegedly communists. He even went as far as calling out his brother’s Vice President, Lyndon B Johnson, for having segregated staff. This was in 1962 when Kennedy was still only 27 years old. When asked, as Attorney General that same year, the question: “What do you see as the big problem ahead for you? Is it crime or internal security?” Kennedy answered immediately, “Civil Rights.” He just felt it was wrong, he truly felt it. Listen to him destroy the Sherriff of Kern County with real moral indignation:

Kennedy was an early proponent of gun laws, saying, "For too long we dealt with these deadly weapons as if they were harmless toys. Yet their very presence, the ease of their acquisition and the familiarity of their appearance have led to thousands of deaths each year.

With the passage of this bill, we will begin to meet our responsibilities. It would save hundreds of thousands of lives in this country and spare thousands of families...grief and heartache,” as he tried to introduce a bill to limit firearms. Wherever he saw, or indeed, felt injustice, he just had to call it out, and so he did not have that single issue focus that many politicians do, it was a global sense of caring for those less able to defend themselves.

He campaigned against his own government’s involvement in the Vietnam war, but as an activist not a pacifist, he felt the US should help South Vietnam win their war, not fight it for them. He visited South Africa to see apartheid for himself, and to see the squalor in which black people lived and railed against the government and the church for their legislating racism. As he recounted: “At the University of Natal, in Durban, I was told the church to which most of the white population belongs teaches apartheid as a moral necessity. A questioner declared that few churches allow black Africans to pray with the white because the Bible says that is the way it should be, because God created Negroes to serve. ‘But suppose God is black,’ I replied, ‘what if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?’ There was no answer. Only silence.” How powerful is that? Listen to him speak about the essence of compassion: Robert F Kennedy was for real, he has authenticity etched indelibly right across his brow.

On June 5th, 1968, whilst campaigning to become the Democratic nominee for the Presidency, Robert Francis Kennedy was shot three times by Sirhan Sirhan, and died at the scene, in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after addressing his supporters that evening. The hotel busboy, Juan Romero, cradled him as he died, placing a rosary in his hand. Kennedy turned his head to Romero and asked, “Is everybody OK?” An ENFJ who cared right up until the end.