Sunday, July 3, 2016

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon by Larry Tye

Last month, on the anniversary of the shooting of Bobby Kennedy, I wrote about how it had affected me and my schoolmates. The day before I had finished reading Larry Tye's new biography Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon.

I had requested the book because of the title and its reference to the growth, politically and personally, behind his becoming the man whose death meant so much to my generation.

Tye reminds us of Bobby before was a crusader for the poor, before his determination to heal the racial divide: the commie hating, law and order, political operative who worked for family friend Senator Joseph McCarthy and approved wire-taping Martin Luther King, Jr. The Bobby who wanted to bring down Jimmy Hoffa and Fidel Castro.

The expectations of his father and the examples of his older brothers meant Bobby was filling the roles set out for him. Until the death of his brother President John Kennedy, a blow that sent Bobby spiraling into grief but also freed him to explore his own path and seek his own way.

Bobby was a complex man with many 'sides' and Tye brings all to life, marking each stride in Bobby's growing maturity and wisdom.

It was Bobby's empathy and determination to act against injustice that has immortalized him. "Lets face it, I appeal best to people who have problems," he remarked during his presidential run. But it was no PR act. He truly loved children. He was enraged by the poverty he encountered and that he deemed was worse than what he had seen abroad. And he was courageous, fearless. His extemporized speech to a nearly all-black crowd, telling them about the assassination of of MLK, was an eloquent and poetic plea for compassion.

"What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our county, whether they be white or whether they be black. So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King...but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country...for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke."
Bobby was not a perfect man and he made errors and misjudgments. But this biography shows us how an individual, through life experience and growth in wisdom, became the moral compass of a people. Could a President Bobby Kennedy have altered America's trajectory? All I know is that his message needs to be heard again today.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon
by Larry Tye
Random House
$32.00 hard cover
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-812-99334-9