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November 2, 2018

Robert F. Kennedy Meets The Same Fate As His Older Brother

On March 16, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy declared that he was running for president of the United States. Robert Kennedy was a humble man, stating that he was not running for president to oppose any man, but to propose new policies. With his brother leaving a big impact on so many, Robert F. Kennedy had big shoes to fill. The start of his pursuit for the presidency of the United States began when he became the 64th US Attorney General on January 21, 1961. On November 22, 1963, Robert lost his older brother, John F. Kennedy, after he was fatally shot in Dallas.1

After his brother had been killed, Robert Kennedy resigned as Attorney General less than a year later, in September of 1964. Wanting to do something different, Robert announced his intent to run for Senate. He successfully became the Senator of New York in 1965 and then began advocating for the poor, for human rights, and against racial discrimination. But he wondered to himself whether he should run for president or not.2 However, he wasn’t motivated to pursue the presidency because of many factors, one of them being his brother’s assassination.

Robert Kennedy was a prominent member of the Democratic Party. Kennedy had liberal views for what he thought would be better for the people of the United States. He thought that everyone should be treated equally and be treated like human beings. He wanted to desegregate schools, and wanted all people to enjoy the same rights. After waiting anxiously and not knowing whether he would run for the Democratic Party’s presidential campaign or not, he finally decided he would run for president, and his presidential campaign began in March 1968. He was prepared to take a risk in order to accomplish what he wanted and what he believed in.3 Something inside of him wanted to make a difference and change America for the better. He was actually a late entry in the primary race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Kennedy focused on the issues of social improvement, economic justice, and racial equality. The Democratic Party supported Robert F. Kennedy and they helped him launch his presidential campaign. On March 16, 1968, Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign began, even before Lyndon B. Johnson announced he wouldn’t run for re-election. He was willing to challenge Johnson for the nomination, which was clearly a risk.

“RFK and MLK” | Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King together| June 22, 1963 | Photographed by Abbie Rowe | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons |

Robert Kennedy gave his first campaign speech at Kansas State University, where he drew a record crowd. In his speech, he spoke out about ending the Vietnam war, then he continued on to the matter of poverty, emphasizing the horror he felt when he saw what poor Americans had to face every day. Towards the end of his speech, he quoted George Bernard Shaw: “Some people see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not.”4 This quote would become the centerpiece of Kennedy’s presidential campaign and help express the mindset he had about what he wanted to do if he became president. He wanted to create things and change things.

Youth engagement was critical for his campaign. He tried to inspire young leaders, and he created a national resource center for juvenile justice, by giving opportunity to juveniles to do more with their lives. His political platform was structured around racial equality and economic justice. He supported non-aggression in foreign policy, and social improvement for the poor and for people who were segregated.5 Robert F. Kennedy wanted to desegregate schools and wanted every American to have the same rights as every other American. He even spoke to civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, who was just ending a 25-day hunger strike over the treatment that farm workers were enduring.

On March 31, Lyndon B. Johnson stunned the nation by dropping out of the presidential race. At that time there were only fourteen states that held primary elections: California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Robert Kennedy had won two primary states: Indiana and Nebraska. When Martin Luther King Jr was shot, on April 4, 1968, Kennedy gave an improvised speech in Indianapolis, Indiana, speaking at two universities. He then boarded a plane to attend campaign rallies, honoring the death Martin Luther King Jr emphasizing his love for life and justice for the people. Robert Kennedy began addressing the people, asking them whether the nation would choose to continue to be segregated and fall apart, or whether it would move together as a country to achieve more. King’s death was an important moment that made many people see that a change was needed.6 Kennedy was behind Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s Vice President, who had entered the race after LBJ declined to run. At the time, Humphrey was seemed to have an advantage over Kennedy in delegate support, but a victory in California’s primary could turn the tide in Kennedy’s favor.

“Robert F. Kennedy” | Robert Kennedy greeting everyone after giving an unforgettable speech about Martin Luther’s death in Indianapolis | 1968 | Photographed by Evan Freed | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons |

Things were beginning to look good for Robert F. Kennedy. Then, suddenly, things took a stunning turn for the worst.

On June 5, 1968, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. It was the evening of the California primary, and the results were just coming in that Kennedy had won both South Dakota and California. He gave a triumphant victory speech, speaking to journalists and campaign workers and supporters. The speech was carried live on television. His victories in the California and South Dakota primary elections gave Kennedy the boost he needed to go into the Democratic Party Convention that summer with confidence that he would win the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. After leaving the podium and exiting through a crowded kitchen hallway, he began to have a conversation with a busboy named Juan Romero. Juan Romero was very grateful that a simple busboy like himself was able to interact with the potential president of the United States. But in the blink of an eye, while shaking the hand of Juan, Robert Kennedy came face to face with a 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan. Sirhan suddenly shot Kennedy multiple times with a .22 caliber revolver. Kennedy’s body immediately dropped to the floor and everyone was in shock. Kennedy was later transferred to the Good Samaritan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead the following day.7

After Kennedy’s death, Juan Romero said, “This made me realize that no matter how much hope you have, it can be taken away in a second.”8 Kennedy’s remains were then flown back to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York for public viewing before a funeral mass. Thousands of mourners attended in order to see Robert Kennedy’s lifeless body. His blood-stained shirt, tie, and jacket are now in the possession of the Los Angeles County District attorney. Kennedy was then buried near his older brother John Kennedy, in Arlington National Cemetery.

It was later revealed during a search of Sirhan’s home that he held strong anti-Zionist beliefs and, in a diary, he wrote that he was determined to kill Robert Kennedy before June 5, 1968, because that was the first anniversary of the start of the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and he resented Kennedy and his beliefs. He just held an overpowering hatred for Kennedy. He expressed that hatred toward Kennedy when he found out that Kennedy supported Israel and his attempt to send fifty bombers to Israel to harm the Palestinians. Sirhan was sentenced to death, but it was later commuted to life in prison.9

“Robert Kennedy Assassination” | A free hand drawing of Robert Kennedy assassinated lying on the ambassadors hotel kitchen | December 10, 2010 | Drawn by Dalibor Krch | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons |

Later on, as the 1968 election progressed, Richard Nixon won the presidential election. Many believe Kennedy would have ultimately secured his nomination after successfully winning the California primary, were it not for his tragic death; and that he would have gone on to be elected president.10

After Kennedy’s death, things turned into chaos for the Democrats. The Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago in August. The purpose was to select a new presidential nominee to run as the Democratic party’s candidate for office. The Democratic Party ended up choosing Humphrey to run. But the way he was chosen was anything but civil. Party members and the Left were left devastated and demoralized in the wake of Kennedy’s death. Chicago was chaotic, both inside the convention hall and outside on the streets. One can only wonder how it all would have gone, had Kennedy lived.

  1. Robert F. Kennedy (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum), May 20, 2017. Accessed August 30, 2018.
  2. Thurston Clarke, The Last Campaign : Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America (New York : Henry Holt, 2009, 37-46.
  3. Diane Nixon, “The Case of the Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Investigation Files,” The Public Historian (2008): 11, 29-35.
  4. Ray E. Boomhower,  Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2008), 35-41.
  5. Nora Rawlison and Robert F. Nardini,  “Robert Kennedy,” Library Journal 113 (13) (1988): 156-162.
  6. Micheal Rosenwald, “Robert F. Kennedy’s Remarks on the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 55 (2007): 5.
  7. Mel Alyom, Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (Washington D.C.: 1st Ed Potomac Books, 2007), 60-67.
  8. John Rogers and Russell Contreras, “Busboy Comforted a Dying Robert Kennedy,” Globe & Mail (Toronto, Canada 2018).
  9. Ilene Cooper, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (American Library Association / Booklist Publications), 44-50.
  10. Kenneth Walsh, Shattering the Hope (U.S. News. June 1, 2017) Accessed September 9, 2018.

Tags from the story


California Primary Election

Robert F. Kennedy

Sirhan Sirhan

The Year 1968

Recent Comments

Robert Freise

It is very sad that people have hatred for people and that they let it manifest within them. The fact the assinatiuons happen iks very bad and it is so sad that literally the mom of Robert and John lost both of her sons due to the fact of a shooter. This article is really nice and it takes into account of the struggles of the lives for the Kennedy’s. Great article!!



4:23 pm

Lyzette Flores

It is truly sad how cruel some people can be. I believe if Robert F. Kennedy was elected president he could have helped change America for the better. Both Kennedy’s seemed like genuine men. They wanted nothing but the best for our country. What Juan Romero stated is very true. You never know when something is going to be taken away that is why you should cherish it every second you have with it.



4:23 pm

Christopher Vasquez

This is such a sad story. Robert F. Kennedy seemed like he would have made a great president. It’s a shame that hate cost him his life. This will be one of those great “what if” moments in history. What if Kennedy were still around today? Would he have defeated Richard Nixon? We will never know, but one thing is for sure: violence is never the answer. Instead of promoting peace, as Kennedy had wished, Sirhan had sparked more conflict.



4:23 pm

Jennifer Salas

I’ve always been really fascinated with the Kennedy family and their engagement in politics. I think Robert F. Kennedy had some great ideas and plans for the U.S, but unfortunately we never got to witness the greatness of RFK due to his assassination. Reading this article also made me think about how many people believe that the Kennedy’s are cursed due to so many tragic events that have happened to the members in their family. Although there’s really no proof about this, one thing we do know is that the Kennedy’s are a very influential family and will forever be remembered for their role in politics.



4:23 pm

Christopher Hohman

Nice article. It is tragic that Robert Kennedy’s life took the same road as his older brother. He represented hope and promise for the future. I dont know why but he and his brother both had such terrible things happen to them. The Kennedy family was a great family, and even though they were not perfect they really tried hard to improve the lives of others especially the working class and the poor. He and his brother will not be forgotten



4:23 pm

William Ward

I honestly did not know John Kennedy had a brother, much less such an active brother. Both young men seem like they truly wanted to see change in our world and only wanted to help, so hearing that both of them paid the ultimate price is beyond tragic. This article in very well written and is on a great topic. Thank you for sharing this story.



4:23 pm

Daniel Linstead

I have heard about John F Kennedy and how he was assassinated, however, I didn’t know anything else about him. The fact that he had a brother that was also assassinated is shocking. The mom had lost both her sons at a young age in regards to death and at the hands of a psychotic person that murders people. It is a sad story that you wouldn’t think would occur.



4:23 pm

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