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Remembering Bobby: The life of RFK and his potential greatness as president

No one will ever know what would have happened in the presidential election of 1968 had Robert F. Kennedy not been killed during the Democrat primary, and all we can do is wonder.

Robert F. Kennedy appearing before Platform Committee
fair use via the Library of Congress

Bobby. Some people in politics can be recognized simply by a first name and Robert F. Kennedy is one of them. Born in Brookline, Massachusetts on November 20, 1925, Bobby was the seventh child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. The Kennedy family was already becoming established in the political scene and Bobby fit in well. Robert Kennedy, better known as Bobby, spent time in the U.S Naval Reserve from 1944-1946, receiving his honorable discharge on May 20. 1946. Kennedy graduated from Harvard in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in government and was also a varsity letterman on the football team. Kennedy would later enter the University of Virginia School of Law and graduate in 1951, one year after he married his now wife, Ethel.

Just months after graduating, Bobby went on a seven week trip to Asia along side his brother John F. Kennedy, known also as Jack or JFK, who was at the time the current congressman for Massachusetts 11th district. The trip gave the brothers the time to finally bond and planted the seed of a stronger relationship that would blossom over the next decade. Bobby spent time as a lawyer over the next few years, but politics would continue to call his name. Working on his brother Jack's Senate campaign in 1952, Bobby helped propel his brother from the House to the Senate. Bobby held numerous titles in Washington over the next decade, but none more important than that of campaign manager for Jack's presidential run in 1960. After a tough battle with Republican Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy was the next President of the United States and he knew he had to thank Bobby for much of it.

Bobby Kennedy was then named the Attorney General of the United States, though he and his brother Jack were not too fond of it. Bobby Kennedy was planning on leaving Washington to become a full time lawyer and spend more time with his family, but after pressure from their father, newly elected President Kennedy made the decision to pick Bobby for the position. Over the next 3 years, Bobby made his presence known, none more than the persistent pressure he put on the mafia and organized crime and his pursuit of Teamsters union President Jimmy Hoffa. Bobby Kennedy was also a strong supporter of the civil rights movement and gave a famous speech announcing the murder of Martin Luther King JR.

Life came to halt on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas when Bobby's brother and President of the the United States was killed by a gun shot through the head during a motorcade in Dealey Plaza. According to Bobby's son, Robert F. Kennedy JR., Bobby was "fairly convinced" that there were other people involved with his brother's murder, rather than believe the official version that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the killing.

Nine months after John F. Kennedy's death, Bobby ran for a Senate seat in New York and won, defeating Republican Kenneth Keating in November of 1964. Bobby was gaining in popularity and as the 1968 presidential election inched closer, the pressure on the younger Kennedy to run for the White House mounted. Democrat President Lyndon Johnson, the vice president under John Kennedy's administration, announced he wouldn't be running for another term. Bobby and LBJ never saw eye to eye and often butted heads. With LBJ souring on the Democratic base, Kennedy shined as the new light for anti-war Democrats.

Kennedy campaigned on civil rights, equality and ending the war in Vietnam and his support grew as the months passed. Kennedy was looking like he could be the front runner for the Democrat nomination as his campaigned moved to California for the next primary on June 4, 1968. After the votes were in, Bobby Kennedy was declared the winner and addressed his supporters in a ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Bobby closed his speech by saying "my thanks to all of you, now it's on to Chicago and lets win there too, thank you."

Bobby left the stage with his wife Ethel trailing behind him and made his way through the hotel kitchen. While shaking hands with 17 year old Juan Romero, Kennedy was shot with a .22-caliber pistol, fell to the ground and clutched his chest. TV news reporter Andrew West was heard shouting "he still has the gun...the gun is pointed at me," and instructed a bodyguard to "get his thumb and break it if you have to." Kennedy was rushed to the Good Samaritan hospital but during the yearly hours on June 6, the 42 year old Senator was pronounced dead. Twenty four year old Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant who was opposed to Kennedy's support of Israel, was convicted of the murder and is currently serving a life sentence. Like his brother's assassination, mystery surrounds his death with many believing there was more to it than just one rogue immigrant. Multiple theories have been presented, including that of a second gunman after an auto recording of the event was examined by forensic expert Philip van Praag who stated that at least 13 shots were fired.

The world will never know if Bobby Kennedy would have become the next president, but one can only wonder. John F. Kennedy's presidency was cut short, but is universally seen as a success for what he was able to accomplish in such a short time in office. Bobby spent time in Congress and was also his brother's right hand man in the White House. Taking mental notes of the highs and lows of Jack's time as president, Bobby quite possibly could have elevated himself to even greater status than his brother. A strong supporter of popular progressive issues of the time and a respected leader throughout the country, Bobby Kennedy had the momentum to move past the Democratic primary and defeat the Republican challenger, Richard Nixon.

As 46 years have gone by, the United States is dealing with many issues. A slow economic recovery from a financial crisis, new social challenges and a rift in Washington that would make all the Kennedy's blood boil. How the country would have changed if Bobby Kennedy was never gunned down in that California kitchen is a mystery, but it's safe to say that it probably would have changed for the better.

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