Mr. Kennedy Goes to Washington, Wows at House where Camelot Was Born

Daniel Kovalik | January 27, 2024

On January 25, over a hundred enthusiastic Robert Kennedy, Jr. supporters jammed into the house in Washington DC where JFK and Jackie first met in 1951. They were there to celebrate Kennedy’s 70th Birthday, and for an American Values 2024 fundraiser, but they came away with much more. [AV24 funds The Kennedy Beacon].

The DC event was the third fundraiser – birthday bash of the week, with the star-studded gala in Los Angeles on Monday; the DC event onThursday; and one in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday, January 26, featuring bestselling author and media pundit Naomi Wolf introducing Kennedy. “Bobby is racing his campaign with a level of energy that no recent or current candidate can match,” said Tony Lyons, co-chair of the American Values 2024 super PAC. “He’s physically fit, his speeches are incredible, and he’s surging in the polls despite non-stop efforts to stop him.”

While we waited for Kennedy to appear, I talked to a number of the attendees about what had brought them there that evening. One couple, Chad and Allison Kahl, emphasized how moved they have been by Kennedy’s lifetime defense of the environment. They held up a book, The Peregrine by J.A. Baker, which they had brought to give to Kennedy for his birthday. They explained that Kennedy’s defense of falcons was what originally brought them to Kennedy.

As Allison explained, they have two children, and they are looking for a steward of the planet like Kennedy to secure their future. As Allison related, the threats to the environment are “our mutual security threat.” For his part, Chad, a medical doctor, told me that his father was a steelworker who died from occupational disease and that Kennedy’s advocacy for people like him has been a big inspiration. Chad talked about what he sees as Kennedy’s sincerity and his deep knowledge about the “foundations of the Republic.”

Chad is also connected to Kennedy through his appreciation for his father, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and specifically for his father’s speech in Chad’s hometown of Indianapolis during which he announced the death of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968. Chad was impressed with how Senator Kennedy had quoted the Greek poet Aeschylus in addressing the crowd that day. As Chad is well aware, Indianapolis was the only majority Black city in America that did not riot after MLK’s murder. Many people attribute this fact to Senator Kennedy’s speech: he reminded the crowd that his “brother too was killed by a white man,” and that we as a nation had to refrain from going down the road of racially-motivated hatred.

Another person I spoke to was a young doctor from DC who, because she works for the federal government, did not want to give her name. Her experience in government has led her to desire an alternative to the two-party system. As she explained, “I’ve grown disgusted by the big money madness on the right and the left” in Washington. She asserted that a “vote for Kennedy is a vote for democracy”; a vote for a “government by the people and for the people.”

When Kennedy arrived to speak, the crowd gathered tightly around him, everyone eager for a handshake and a chance to speak with the candidate. Kennedy was introduced by both Scott Stewart and Tony Lyons who hosted the event. Stewart talked about the night JFK and Jackie famously met. He looked at Kennedy and said, “I am certain that your dad and uncle would be so proud of you.”

For his part, Tony Lyons read one of Kennedy’s favorite poems – “The Second Coming,” by William Butler Yeats, which reads, in part,

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Of course, this poem has an especial connection to Kennedy who is indeed a life-long falconer. Tony explained that Kennedy, who is running for office for only one purpose – to serve the people and to bridge the divides we have in this country – is the only candidate who can hold our nation together and prevent it from slipping into the anarchy that Yeats wrote about.

Kennedy took the floor and gave one of the greatest political speeches I have ever heard. Kennedy quoted his uncle, JFK, who said that the main job of a US President is to preserve the peace, and to keep us out of war. Indeed, as Kennedy explained, JFK had told Washington Post reporter Ben Bradley that he wanted only four words on his tombstone: “he kept the peace.”

Kennedy explained that JFK – resisting the generals and the military brass who saw their job as providing a limitless conveyor belt of soldiers to the military-industrial complex – was true to his word: he did not send one American combat troop abroad during his presidency. And while he did send some military advisers abroad, he sent more troops during his term to Oxford, Mississippi to ensure the safe entry of James Meredith, a Black man, to the University of Mississippi.

With eyes glistening with tears, Kennedy also explained that the other goal of the president, as articulated by JFK, is to be a defender of the poor. One of JFK’s favorite international trips as president, RFK Jr. related, was to Colombia. There he met the man JFK believed was the greatest world leader he had ever met – Colombian President Alberto Lleras Camargo. During their meeting, President Lleras asked JFK, “Do you know why they love you? Because you put America on the side of the poor.” JFK, according to Kennedy, wanted people around the world to think of a Peace Corps worker when they thought of America, and not a soldier with a gun.

Kennedy explained that because JFK saw his role as protecting America’s economic interests abroad and not its military might, there are probably more streets, town squares and neighborhoods named after him than any other leader in history, many in Latin America. Kennedy mentioned that there are people in Africa named “Kennedy” for the very same reason. Coincidentally, I met an African American woman at the party who introduced herself as “Kennedy.”

While we were gathered outside on a cool, rainy night to hear Kennedy, everyone was warmed by the sincerity of his words and the decency and purity of his desire to be our next president.

People stayed late into the evening to greet Kennedy after his speech and to have their photo taken with him. He was happy to oblige.

At age 55, as someone who has heard many politicians over the years in person, including great orators like Jesse Jackson in 1984 and Barack Obama in 2008, I can honestly say what I heard that night was one of the greatest political speeches I’ve ever heard. And while I’m too young to have listened to JFK or Bobby Sr. in person, I felt them channeled and resonating through RFK Jr.

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