A Ripple of Hope

“Each time a man (person) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Bobby Kennedy
I have been thinking of writing a blog on trust and how our institutions and their leaders whether they were the politicians, the bankers, industry, the media and now even the Non-Government Organizations have lost their way with the general public. It seems like every day there is one scandal after another.
Of course, this is a generalization but its clear that our democrat way of life is under threat. Democracy has always been challenged through history sometimes advancing and then other times retreating or developing. On the right to vote we moved from freehold landed property owners to all men, then all women and then all races.
I have been doing a lot of reading about the subject of Democracy over the last few months. Researching back to Athens and Rome, through the 'Glorious Revolution' to the French and US revolutions to the Students for a Democratic Society to the experimentation with stakeholders we have been seeing now.  Reflecting on the tension between representative and participatory democracy.
The reading includes Tom Hayden’s autobiography and Democracyis in the Streets by James Miller. Why? Because I am in the process of writing a book with Minu Hemmati on Stakeholder Democracy which has had me examine the history of democracy. The book we hope to hand in September so I will blog more on this after that. But its clear we need to build stability in our Democracies and how they evolve will be critical to whether the general public start to have more confidence in institutions again.
So, what is this blog about then? I guess its about a couple of heroes of mine both who will die in the next three months… 50 years ago. I am of course talking about Martin Luther King Jnr and Bobby Kennedy.
King was an American Baptist Minister who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement in the late 1950's and the 1960's. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance and like Gandhi before him challenged the prejudice he saw not with guns or violence but with nonviolent protests. Considering what had and was happening to African Americans – a different leader might have chosen a more violent response. King pointed out that the colonists in the US first approached their disagreement with the King of England with civil disobedience through the Boston Tea Party. This was about illegal civil disobedience, and he went on to conversely say, "everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal'”.
It seemed that he and Kennedys both John and Bobby's lives were to be interwoven from the 1960 Presidential campaign of John F Kennedy onward. 
Two weeks before the election King had been arrested and sentenced to six months hard labor because he had taken part in a sit in in an Atlanta department store. JFK secured his release and that probably won the election for him against Richard Nixon.
Appointing Bobby his Attorney General may have seemed like nepotism....of course that was before the Trump Presidency!!! Bobby had been an Assistant Counsel of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations helped to that position by Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. He resigned from the committee but would then come back as Chief Counsel for the Democrats. He would fight against organized crime and the mob the most well known being Jimmy Hoffa President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) union on the committee something he continue to do as Attorney General. His father had tried to stop him from doing as it might make some of his friends unhappy and might impact on John's attempt to become President. 
In May 1961, Bobby predicted that an African-American: "can also achieve the same position that my brother has as President of the United States over the course of the next thirty to forty years.” He wasn’t far off President Obama being elected 47 years later.
Under Bobby Kennedy the Office of Civil Rights also hired its first African-American lawyer and the FBI was pressured to do the same it turned out all the African Americans working in the FBI were in menial jobs – there were no African American FBI agents.
After the assassination of his brother in 1963 – Bobby left the new Johnson administration. The two had never got on and increasingly Kennedy and his supporters saw Johnson as unhinged. Johnson always worried that Bobby would stand against him. After leaving the cabinet Bobby decided to stand for US Senate in New York and won. 
He slowly became an opponent to the escalating war in Vietnam. 
America was changing – with the music, the long hair, the drugs, the burning of the draft cards, the challenging of power whether it be at universities or against politicians. 
Kennedy carried on his promotion of civil rights and made one of his best speeches about where the US was at the University of Cape Town South Africa in 1966:
 “I came here because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which once imported slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage. I refer, of course, to the United States of America.” (Kennedy, 1966)

He was changing as the 1960's was changing the country and he was starting to internalize the poverty in the US whether it was seen in African American communities, white communities or Indian communities. He was one of the few politicians who seemed to care about them.
During his years as a senator, he tried out some of the policies he would advocate later as a candidate he helped to start a successful redevelopment project in poverty-stricken Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in New York City. He addressed poverty, housing, jobs and education through a government approach - a holistic approach. It became an example of how to change communities and draw them out of poverty.
King delivered what seems now a prophetic speech on the 3 April 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tennessee. When he said:
“Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now because I've been to the mountaintop.
And I don't mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!” (King, 1968)
On April 4th Marin Luther King was assassinated and Kennedy was due in an African-American neighborhood in Indianapolis that evening some in his team didn’t want him to go worried about the reaction to the news of Kings death. He did go and said:
“I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some -- some very sad news for all of you -- Could you lower those signs, please? -- I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black -- considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible -- you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.
We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization -- black people among blacks, and white among whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with -- be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.
But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond, or go beyond these rather difficult times.”  Bobby Kennedy

It would be one of the few major cities that did not have riots.
 “Run bobby run” had been the call since 1967 many saw Bobby running as a way of resurrecting the dream of the Kennedy Presidency - bringing back Camelot - but that wasn’t who Bobby was… by then.  He had become a real Liberal but not a politician or plastic replica of one - he seemed to internalize all the hurt he saw in society. 
It would always be difficult for him to win the Democratic nomination. First as there was a sitting Democratic President and when he decided not to run a sitting Democratic Vice President who was running this would pitch him against the party establishment.  In those days most of the votes were controlled by political czars such as mayor Dally in Chicago – but some states did have primaries and the most important was California.
Norman Mailer had called Bobby Kennedy America's "last great hope" of stopping the war mongering right from taking the country and I would add its soul.
He celebrated winning of the California Primary which would gave him the momentum to win the Democratic nomination challenging Hubert Humphrey at the convention. he then left the stage having given his victory speech and in a crush of people left through the kitchen of the hotel....what many had feared then happened – he too was shot. He would die later and with him the last hopes of that generation for a different path for the United States. 
Nixon would win the Presidency and America’s involvement in Vietnam would increase before the US left in defeat in March 1973. The Presidency of the US and the belief in politicians would be scared for a generation with Watergate. Some would say it never would recover.
What would the US have been like if Kennedy and King had not died? We will never know but their words have been an inspiration for generations.
 “The Gross National Product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our 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.” (Kennedy, 1968)
Finally …..
“Every generation inherits a world it never made; and, as it does so, it automatically becomes the trustee of that world for those who come after. In due course, each generation makes its own accounting to its children.” (Kennedy, 1968)
"Every man (person)  must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." Martin Luther King, Jr.


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