When I opened Time Magazine last week I was preparing myself for another hit job from neoconservative in chief, Bill Kristol. The way his column unremorsefully wipes the face of anyone who commits the sin of disagreeing with the conservative agenda or worst, the president, in the mud can be excruciating. In a weekly ritual I find myself questioning why Time gives Kristol's predictable regurgitation of White House talking points column space.
Still this week Mr. Kristol's surprised me with actual insight. He summed up the 2008 Presidential primaries as the search by the bases of the Democratic and Republican parties as the search for their arche-type, Robert Kennedy and Ronald Reagan respectively. Who would have expected such thoughtful commentary for once?
RFK's influence on the current crop of leaders of the Democratic party is pretty fascinating. Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Richardson, Kucinich and Biden (even Giuliani on the G.O.P side) have all acknowledged RFK's legacy's impact on their outlook and their own choices in public service at one point or another.
What is so unique about RFK's legacy that the thoughts and words of a man who was never president could still hold so much influence on progressive politics and the Democratic party?
Perhaps it was how he blended a unique optimism and commitment to human dignity with a serious and urgent realism. After witnessing years of humiliating crisis around the world and at home, he believe that no less than the moral leadership of the planet was at stake in his 68' presidential campaign as he dared to say, "we can do better."
What I think made him unique was how he developed his ideas. By the end of his career especially he reached out to folks and leaders at the grassroots and tried to see problems through the eyes of those directly being affected by poverty, hunger and civil rights abuse across ethnic divides; Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans. His policies sought to empower folks with the rights and opportunity to overcome the odds. His commitment to human rights and his ability to use his celebrity to bring witness to rights abuses is what really separated him in my mind from other historic Democratic figures.
Today that legacy continues with the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. The RFK Memorial partners with grassroots human rights defenders across the globe, both in the United States in places like New Orleans or in the tomato fields of Southwest Florida, and abroad in places like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Chad, and Brazil. The Memorial's Center for Human Rights brings wind to the sails of leaders of diverse social movements by lending legal support, public and advocacy support with international and local officials, and capacity building. It works with some of the world's most courageous but under recognized social leaders on cutting edge human rights programs.
Though it is a bit of a shameless plug, through Friday afternoon, those who still believe in RFK's legacy have the opportunity to support the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial in an online auction at http://www.charitybuzz.com where you can bid on some once in a lifetime experiences:
- Ask Valerie Plame and Ambassador Joe Wilson what they real think about Dick Cheney over a secret lunch at a "Safehouse"
Bidding starts to close on items Friday at noon so go to www.charitybuzz.com now to support RFK's living legacy, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial.