Robert F. Kennedy

robert f kennedyRobert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) was a United States politician, presidential candidate and the younger brother of John F. Kennedy. Born in Massachusetts, Robert Francis Kennedy was the fifth child and third son of influential businessman Joseph ‘Joe’ Kennedy. Educated at private schools, he was an intelligent but unmotivated student who only excelled in history. After completing high school Kennedy enlisted in the US Navy and undertook officer training, though he saw no active service in World War II. In 1946 he enrolled at Harvard, graduating three years later, then completed a law degree in Virginia. He worked as a press correspondent, then managed his brother John’s Senate election campaign in 1952.

During the 1950s Robert Kennedy worked as legal counsel and an investigator for US Senate committees, including one dominated by notorious Cold War warrior Joseph McCarthy. In 1957-59 lead investigations into union corruption and racketeering, later publishing a book. These activities, along with his family connections, saw Kennedy’s public profile grow. In 1960 he worked on his brother’s successful presidential campaign. After John F. Kennedy‘s election he named Robert as the US attorney general, a controversial appointment given their relationship and Robert Kennedy’s lack of courtroom experience. Nevertheless the appointment was confirmed and Robert Kennedy became his brother’s most trusted political advisor – not only on legal matters but on national security issues and foreign policy.

After his brother’s November 1963, Robert Kennedy continued to serve as attorney general under Lyndon Johnson, until his resignation in September 1964. Two months later he was elected to the US Senate, representing New York. Up to the mid 1960s Kennedy had been a supporter of South Vietnam and American efforts to bolster the Saigon regime. Once distanced from the White House, however, he became more critical of Johnson’s handling of Vietnam. In February 1968 he told a Chicago audience that the Vietnam War could not be won. The following month, Kennedy announced his intention to run for the presidency. Two days later he told a rally at Kansas State University that the only way to end the war in Vietnam was to negotiate with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong and to make compromises. Kennedy’s youth, idealism and opposition to the Vietnam War saw him become the poster boy for the anti-war movement. On June 5th, as Kennedy leapt ahead in the race for the Democratic nomination, he was gunned down in a California hotel. He died the next day, aged 42.

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