American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.Robert Francis Bobby Kennedy (November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 64th United States Attorney General from January 1961 to September 1964, and as a U.S. Senator from New York from January 1965 until his assassination in June 1968. Kennedy was a member of the Democratic Party and is often seen as an icon of modern American liberalism.
Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the seventh child of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Kennedy. After serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a seaman apprentice from 1944 to 1946, Kennedy returned to Harvard University and graduated in 1948. He received his law degree from the University of Virginia and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1951. He began his political career the following year as the manager for his brother Johns successful campaign for the U.S. Senate. Prior to entering public office himself, he worked as a correspondent for The Boston Post and as an assistant counsel to the Senate committee chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy. He gained national attention as the chief counsel of the Senate Labor Rackets Committee from 1957 to 1959, where he publicly challenged Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa over the corrupt practices of the union and authored The Enemy Within, a book about corruption in organized labor.
Kennedy resigned from the committee to conduct his brothers campaign in the 1960 presidential election. He was appointed United States Attorney General after the successful election and served as the closest advisor to the President from 1961 to 1963. His tenure is best known for its advocacy for the civil rights movement, the fight against organized crime and the Mafia, and involvement in U.S. foreign policy related to Cuba. After his brothers assassination, he remained in office in the Johnson Administration for several months. He left to run for the United States Senate from New York in 1964 and defeated Republican incumbent Kenneth Keating. In office, Kennedy opposed racial discrimination and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He was an advocate for issues related to human rights and social justice and formed relationships with Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez.
In 1968, Kennedy was a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency; he appealed especially to poor, African American, Hispanic, Catholic and young voters. He had defeated Senator Eugene McCarthy in the California and South Dakota presidential primaries. Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, Kennedy was mortally wounded by Sirhan Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian, because he had advocated American support for Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War. Kennedy died the following day and Sirhan was sentenced to life imprisonment. As with the assassination of his brother, Robert Kennedys assassination has been the subject of widespread analysis and numerous conspiracy theories.
Robert Francis Kennedy was born on November 20, 1925, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the seventh child of businessman/politician Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and philanthropist/socialite Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. His older brothers were Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. and John F. Jack Kennedy, who was elected the 35th President of the United States in 1960. His younger brother was longtime United States Senator Edward M. Ted Kennedy. All four of his grandparents were children of Irish immigrants.
His father was a wealthy businessman and a leading Irish figure in the Democratic Party. After he stepped down as ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1940, Joe Sr. focused his attention on his oldest son, Joseph Jr., expecting that he would enter politics and be elected president. He also urged the younger children to examine and discuss current events in order to propel them to public service. After Joseph Jr. was killed during World War II, the senior Kennedys hopes fell on his second son, John, to become president. Joseph Sr. had the money and connections to play a central role in the familys political ambitions.
The Kennedy family at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, in 1931 with Robert on the bottom left in a jacket Kennedys older brother John was often bedridden by illness and, as a result, became a voracious reader. Although he made little effort to get to know his younger brother during his childhood, John would take him for walks and regale him with the stories of heroes and adventures he had read. One of their favorite authors was John Buchan, who wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps, which influenced both Robert and John. John sometimes referred to Robert as Black Robert due to his prudishness and disposition.
Unlike his older brothers, Kennedy took to heart their mother Roses agenda for everything to have a purpose, which included visiting historic sites during family outings, visits to the church during morning walks, and games used to expand vocabulary and math skills. He described his position in the family hierarchy by saying, When you come from that far down, you have to struggle to survive. As the boys were growing up, he tried frequently to get his older brothers attention, but was seldom successful.
In September 1927, the Kennedy family moved to Riverdale, Bronx, New York, and two years later, they relocated 5 miles (8.0 km) northeast to Bronxville, a small town in suburban Westchester County. During his childhood, Kennedy spent summers and early autumns with his family at their home (rented in 1926, then purchased in 1929) in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and Christmas and Easter holidays at their winter retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, later purchased in 1933.
He attended Riverdale Country School—a private school for boys—from kindergarten through second grade. He then attended Bronxville Public School in lower Westchester County from third through fifth grade. He repeated the third grade. A teacher at Bronxville reflected that he was a regular boy. She added, It seemed hard for him to finish his work sometimes. But he was only ten after all. He then attended Riverdale Country School for the sixth grade. Kennedy would later recall that during childhood he was going to different schools, always having to make new friends, and that I was very awkward...[a]nd I was pretty quiet most of the time. And I didnt mind being alone. He developed an interest in American history. He also decorated his bedroom with pictures of U.S. presidents and filled his bookshelves with volumes on the American Civil War. He also became an avid stamp collector and once received a handwritten letter from Franklin Roosevelt, who was also a philatelist.
In March 1938, Kennedy sailed to London with his mother and four youngest siblings to join his father who had begun serving as Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He attended the private Gibbs School for Boys in London for seventh grade. In April 1939, he gave his first public speech at the placing of a cornerstone for a youth club in England. According to embassy and newspaper reports, his statements were pencilled in his own hand and were delivered in a calm and confident manner. Bobby returned to the United States just before the outbreak of World War II in Europe.
One of his first relationships was with a girl named Piedy Bailey. The pair was photographed together when he walked her home after chapel on a Sunday night. Bailey was fond of him and remembered him as being very appealing. She recalled him being funny, separate, larky; outside the cliques; private all the time. Soon after he transferred to Milton, he pressed his father to allow him to enlist, as he wanted to catch up to his brothers who were both serving in the military. Kennedy had arrived at Milton unfamiliar with his peers and made little attempt to know the names of his classmates; he called most of the other boys fella instead. For this, he was nicknamed Fella. Most of the schools students had come in eighth or ninth grade and cliques had already been formed. Despite this, his schoolmates would later say the school had no prejudice. He had an early sense of virtue; he disliked dirty jokes and bullying, once stepping in when an upperclassman tried bothering a younger student. The headmaster at Milton would later summarize that he was a very intelligent boy, quiet and shy, but not outstanding, and he left no special mark on Milton.
This was a most inspiring book. Ive been very attracted to read and learn of the Kennedys over the last 5-10 years. They are an amazing family. I havent always approved of their lifestyle and their relationships, but they still are an amazing family in their own way. Highly Recommend.
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