“Too much and too long we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values to the mere accumulation of material things…The gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America—except whether we are proud to be Americans. (Speech at University of Kansas, March 18, 1968)”
Robert Kennedy, born in Brookline, Massachusetts, was United States Attorney General from 1961 to 1964, during the presidency of his older brother John F. Kennedy. In 1965, he was elected to the US Senate from New York where he served until June 4, 1968, when, as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president and after winning the California primary election, he was assassinated by a demented Jordanian Palestinian sympathizer.
As Attorney General, Robert Kennedy staunchly enforced established laws during the violence-prone days of civil rights unrest in the South. His commitment to civil rights implementation and his Justice Department’s vigorous prosecution of organized crime, along with his later Senatorial efforts on behalf of the dispossessed, the powerless poor and the young, had, by 1968 established him as a standard-bearer of suburban voters, blue-collar workers and members of minority groups. “I believe,” he once said, “that as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.”
Today, when corporate executives break the laws in order to amass greater wealth, when the world’s most powerful nation practices preemptive warfare with no apparent regard for international opinion and alliances, Robert Kennedy’s words ring true: material prosperity alone will not guarantee the survival of those timeless values which will make us proud to be Americans.
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