Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Robert F. Kennedy And His Unfulfilled Potential

June 6, 2010, will mark the 42nd anniversary of the death of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy died of wounds from an assassin's bullets the morning after his victory in the California Democratic primary in his quest for the presidency in 1968.

He was only 42-years-old at the time of his death.

Bobby Kennedy remains a compelling figure in contemporary American history, arguably as much for what might have been than what he actually left as a political legacy. His years as Attorney General--for most of that time during his brother John's presidency--were not without significance during the early Civil Rights period, the fight against organized crime, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Afterward, his election to the U.S. Senate from the State of New York, and his eventual opposition to the Vietnam War, propelled RFK into the national limelight as a likely presidential aspirant. But it was when Kennedy's life suddenly ended while closing in on what may have been an eventual national-election showdown with Richard Nixon, that left millions of Americans wondering what had been lost.

While the figure of Robert F. Kennedy has appeared over the years in fictionalized films and books, I feature Kennedy's final campaign in my new historical novel Shall Never See So Much. RFK is seen through the eyes of Kate Flanagan, who accepts a position on Kennedy's staff and thereafter participates in the Indiana, Oregon, and California primaries.

Kate is present at L.A.'s Ambassador Hotel on the June night when the campaign tragically expires with its candidate.

Shall Never See So Much takes the reader through the first six months of 1968. Kate Flanagan's brother, Tom, is a young Marine officer serving in Vietnam. Their relationship is strained over their differences concerning the war and the growing national divisiveness surrounding it. Kate sees Kennedy's hesitation to enter into the '68 presidential fray, and the lack of unanimity even among his closest advisers. She later sees how RFK gets in it to win, Kennedy-style, once the decision is finally made. And she is among the many left aching and dumbfounded at the end.

While my novel Shall Never See So Much was not specifically written as a commemoration of Robert Kennedy, it does seem to raise the question, "What if?"

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