I know, I know, I’ve been away far too long. I didn’t exactly plan on my absence from this portal being this duration. Life and a few other mishaps got in the way since the end of last year. Countless times I’ve thought about doing a blog post and then . . . poof; the urge and/or interest vaporized. I’ve been through a lot and am still going through some of life’s potholes. But now, I’ve touched on some feelings that I really do feel need to be shared. It’s amazing to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same, unfortunately.
Storms notwithstanding, the heinous acts of violence and evil-doing that have cursed our globe these past few years always seem to end the same way: Â Deadly. These attacks/events never seem to stop. Lawmakers attempt, sometimes, to pass laws to end this nonsense but the laws never seem to be enough.
Something I saw on TV recently reminded me of a speech decades ago from a memorial service. As I re-read the eulogy, I learned a few things I didn’t previously know and I realized that what was said and felt back in the sixties is, alas, still true today; at least that for which we strive is. I’d like to share some of this with you.
The following is an excerpt from the eulogy for Robert Kennedy given by his brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy at the public memorial service held on June 8, 1968, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
A few years back, Robert Kennedy wrote some words about his own father which expresses [sic] the way we in his family felt about him. He said of what his father meant to him, and I quote: “What it really all adds up to is love — not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it.”
And he continued, “Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention. There were people who were poor and needed help. And we have a responsibility to them and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off.”
That is what Robert Kennedy was given. What he leaves to us is what he said, what he did, and what he stood for. A speech he made to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966 sums it up the best (excerpt of what I feel is still pertinent today):
Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.
For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that event.
The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society. Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live.”
That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us.
My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:
“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”
Politics aside, these words ring true for me today just as they did in yesteryear. We should always “see wrong and try to right it, see suffering and try to heal it, see war and try to stop it.”
This must be true whether it be in our own backyard, in our neighborhood, across our cities and states, and, yes, even across the globe. This includes social injustices, human rights, religious intolerance. We’ve got to stand up for one another and not be afraid of the consequences.
Alas, there will always be some moron who thinks he/she knows best and will attempt to shut one down. That has gone on in society for eons. So has our determination.
Change is never easy; change for the better is always difficult because someone is always asking “how do we define ‘better’ “? One definition I offer would be “one step up from the status quo.”
I guess I haven’t realized it until I re-read Teddy’s eulogy for Bobby, but his last words referencing Bobby’s belief still resonates with me: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”
I try to live this everyday. Won’t you join me?