What does conservative icon, Bill O’Reilly have in common with liberal talking head, Chris Matthews? They both consider former Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy a role model and a hero. I have been reading Matthews’ book Robert Kennedy “A Raging Spirit” and recognized how few politicians do things simply because they are the right things to do. Matthews talks warmly about Kennedy’s unique ability to unify, illustrated best by the ominous funeral train that carried Kennedy’s body from New York City to Washington DC, and how people – poor, rich, Black, and White – spontaneously lined up along the train tracks singing hymns and saluting as he passed. This was an amazing testament for a politician who was considered to be as ruthless as he was compassionate. Kennedy marched with Cesar Chavez, smoked out organized crime in the labor unions, and fought for civil rights in the South, all at a time when the political consequences seemed too great for many Democrats.
I think most of us would agree that we live in one of the most divisive times in American history brought about by self-serving politicians and media personalities who benefit by encouraging us to demonize people who’s views differ from our own. Everywhere I go, I hear how the constant barrage of political wrangling is mentally and physically exhausting people. There is no question that most of us would prefer to live in a time when our country was more cohesive than divided. As is the case in the physical world, every action prompts an opposite and equal reaction. My hope is that the backlash of this dreadful political environment is a prolonged and lingering era where a politician’s ability to bring people together is the characteristic that is rewarded most by the electorate. Chris Matthews’ book made me wonder how our nation might be different today had he lived and been elected president in 1968 rather than Richard Nixon. Robert Kennedy “A Raging Spirit” is a refreshing read for anyone interested in a leader who was both a fighter and a unifier in one of the most challenging periods in American history.