John F. Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963. His assassination rattled the country. A few months prior, he had proposed a civil rights legislation that would outlaw discrimination based on race, religion, sex or national origin. He had a major impact on all of America. But this is the story of his younger brother, Robert.
Robert Kennedy’s father, Joeseph P. Kennedy Sr, was a businessman, and his mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, was a philanthropist. His father always wanted one of his sons to be elected president. He encouraged his children to explore, discuss, and become versed in American politics and historical events. The attention and expectations of this were on his second son, John, after his first son, Joeseph Jr., was killed during World War II. As a child, Robert had a shy and gentle personality, making him invisible to his father but the ideal child to his mother.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. while riding in a motorcade through Dealy Plaza in Dallas, Texas during his campaign. Five years later, after the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in February of 1968, Kennedy was given a letter from journalist Pete Hamill. The letter said that poor people in the Watts area of Los Angeles had hung pictures of John F. Kennedy in their homes. The letter reminded Robert of the impact that his brother had on America, and he felt that he had an obligation to stay true to the hope that put those pictures on those walls. So, he decided to join, a little late, into the primary race of the Democratic party’s presidential nomination in 1968. He announced this in the Senate Caucus Room, the same place that John F. Kennedy had announced his presidential candidacy in January 1960.
His campaign highlighted racial equality, economic justice, non-aggression in foreign policy, and social improvement. A crucial element was engagement from the youth. Kennedy saw the youth as the future and said that they were the key to reaching an improved and socially equal society. The Vietnam War was also going on at this time. Kennedy did not support an immediate withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from Vietnam or an immediate end to the war. He supported a peace settlement between North and South Vietnam. He supported the abolition of the death penalty and argued that rising crime rates could be countered with more jobs and educational opportunities. Kennedy supported the reduction of casual firearm purchases and believed they should be kept away from criminals, individuals with mental health issues, and minors. Kennedy visited the British Mandate of Palestine and wrote for The Boston Post about the trip and its effect on him. He wrote that during his stay he grew to admire the Jewish community in the area, and he became a strong supporter and advocate for Israel when he became a Senator. This was probably Robert’s most important political opinion because it was the one that lead to his assassination.
The primaries had been going smoothly. In Californa, Kennedy won with 46 percent of the votes and McCarthy won 42 percent. Because of this, On Tuesday, June 4, 1968, Robert Kennedy attended the California presidential primary elections in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. After the polls closed, he gave a small speech of thanks to his campaign supporters in the hotel’s Embassy Room ballroom. Applause rang out around the room. Kennedy was open to contact with the public during the campaign. Secret service was not provided for presidential candidates, but he had two unofficial bodyguards. As he finished speaking, he started to walk across the ballroom to the second gathering of supporters in a different part of the hotel, but his campaign aide decided instead for him to go to a press conference. They walked through the hotel’s kitchen and pantry area behind the ballroom to get there. His bodyguards were leading him to the kitchen doors, but the crowd followed him and he was lead by the head waiter out through the back exit. As Robert was passing through the kitchen he greeted and shook hands with several more of his supporters in the staff. Robert turned his head to shake the hand of the busboy Juan Romero, when a man named Sirhan Sirhan stepped out from behind an ice machine, rushed past the head waiter, and repeatedly fired at Kennedy.
Kennedy fell to the floor. He had been shot three times. Once only an inch from his face entering behind his ear, scattering bullet fragments through his brain. One entered behind his right shoulder and exited from his chest, and the other lodged in the back of his neck. Sirhan Sirhan, the perpetrator, was 24 years old. Later, a diary was found in his house detailing how he had become obsessed with killing Kennedy after he learned about his support for Israel. Sirhan himself was Palestinian, a country that was at war with Israel at the time. One of Kennedy’s bodyguards hit Sirhan in the face while the other forced him against the steam table and disarmed him, but he kept firing in every direction. Five other people were wounded. Sirhan broke free of the bodyguard and grabbed the gun again and fired, but he had used all of his ammo. Reporters and photographers rushed into the kitchen from all sides, only adding to the chaos and confusion. Juan Romero, the busboy whose hand Robert had been shaking when he was shot, sat with him cradling his head. A reporter snapped a picture of them. Juan put a rosary in Kennedy’s hand, and Kennedy asked Romero, ‘Is everybody okay?’ Romero responded, ‘Yes, everybody’s okay.’ Kennedy then turned away and said, ‘Everything’s going to be okay.’ He had a sweet and accepting smile on his face as if he knew it would all end this way.
Robert F. Kennedy was shot on June 6, 1968. His assassination rattled the country. 1968 was a year that shook many Americans’ confidence in the foundation of society. Kennedy’s death was one of the most significant moments. Sirhan Sirhan’s bullets took away the hope for a candidate who would unite a very damaged democratic party. History would have been very different if Kennedy had lived and won the presidency that November. His death had a powerful effect on the American political mind.
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