Panelists Discuss Robert Kennedy's Legacy

IOP
Panelists discussed Robert F. Kennedy's legacy at the IOP on Monday.

Television host Chris Matthews and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy discussed the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy ’48, contrasting the politician’s style to President Donald Trump at the Institute of Politics Monday evening.

Matthews and Kerry Kennedy, Robert Kennedy’s third daughter, applauded Robert Kennedy’s values and authenticity, noting that his leadership would prove helpful in today’s political climate.

Both Matthews and Kerry Kennedy praised Robert Kennedy’s skill of connecting with others. Robert Kennedy, who was running for President at the time of his death in 1968, ran on a platform of racial and economic justice, and he collaborated with workers and activists throughout his campaign.

“That spirit of unity, of empathy, of having a moral compass is what all the leaders miss today. We don’t have those elements in our leadership core,” Matthews said.

Journalist Michael Barnicle, who moderated the discussion, said Robert Kennedy’s campaign looked to find the United States’s “national soul.”

Matthews also discussed his most recent book, called “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit,” which discusses Robert Kennedy’s legacy with regard to politics of the twenty-first century.

“I’m running Bobby Kennedy against Trump right now. That’s what I’m doing. That’s why I’m here, that’s what the book’s about,” he said.

Kerry Kennedy, who also heads a human rights organization in her father’s name, commended Matthews’s book.

“I told [Matthews] that I hate books about my father. I hate reading them. Because then I’m always yelling at the author and saying that this has nothing to do with reality,” she said. “But I loved this book.”

Kerry Kennedy said she agreed that her father’s leadership style emphasizing empathy and equality should be replicated by politicians of today.

“His life mantra was ‘get your boots off his neck’, and if you look at his life through that prism, that’s really what he spent a great deal of time doing,” she said.

Gene A. Corbin, the College’s assistant dean for public service, said he thought Robert Kennedy’s values made him a leader people could be hopeful about during the tumultuous landscape of the 1960s.

“That he was human and willing to present himself to others in a human way, trying to figure out truth and justice and changing along the way—in a way that made him more a leader,” Corbin said.

Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 also attended the event and said he thought Robert Kennedy’s work provided a contrast with modern-day politics.

“I picked up on that immensely, the notion that politicians today figure out what you want to hear and give it to you. They don’t, as Bobby did, stand for something and go out with that moral compass and say a vote from me will...ensure that I will fight for these things,” he said.

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