Top political and public figures commemorated the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, with President Bill Clinton calling attention to Kennedy’s commitment to American ideals.
“He embodied the whole message of the faith of his fathers and mothers,” Clinton said. “Before His Holiness Pope Francis called us to engage in a culture of encounter, he visually, instinctively lived the life of encounter. The life of the outstretched hand, not the clenched fist.”
The brother of President John F. Kennedy, his attorney general, New York senator and later a Democratic presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on the campaign trail in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968. Speakers at Wednesday’s commemoration read excerpts from Kennedy’s speeches meant to illustrate the ways in which Kennedy’s vision resonates in the current day.
Clinton recalled that Kennedy would often share the same message across different social and cultural divides and imagined, “if we had had a large Muslim population back then he would have come to them and said you too can be part of America if you share our values and our vision.”
As Kennedy's widow Ethel watched, his grandson, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., highlighted his grandfather’s contributions to both his family and his country.
“Today we also remember a father who delighted in the laughter of his children, long walks with his dogs, football with his family, the smile of his wife. We celebrate a leader who saw potential in every child and fought for a government that did the same,” Rep. Kennedy said.
Kennedy also emphasized his grandfather’s passion for the “forgotten” Americans. “He held their hands. He knelt by their side. He shared their sorrows and he lifted their spirits. He wasn’t radical or revolutionary. He was human and willing to be vulnerable. It was his greatest gift to give.”
Other speakers who took turns reading excerpts from the speeches Kennedy gave included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and March for Our Lives organizer Emma González.