November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968
“Each time a man 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 which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
“But suppose God is black? What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?”
Robert Frances Kennedy, the son of Joseph Patrick Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1925. Robert was the seventh of nine children of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy. He left Harvard to enlist in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war he completed his degree, then earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. In the 1950’s he was counsel to a U.S. Senate committee investigating labor unions, leading to his well-known feud with Teamsters lead Jimmy Hoffa. But Kennedy’s political career is more closely associated with his brother, John; he managed JFK’s successful campaigns for the U.S. Senate (1952) and the presidency (1960) and served as Attorney General in the JFK administration. After his brother’s 1963 assassination, Robert Kennedy served briefly with the Lyndon Johnson administration, then successfully ran for senator from New York. (This win was often recalled in 2000 when another New York ‘outside,’ Hillary Clinton, similarly won a senate race there. In early 1968 Kennedy declared his candidacy for the U.S. presidency. He was shot by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, just moments after delivering a speech to supporters upon winning the California primary. He died early the next morning. As a candidate for president his assassination was doubly shocking because his older brother, President John F. Kennedy, had also been assassination five years earlier.
On the day Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated, Robert Kennedy was to give a campaign speech in Indianapolis, Indiana. When he began speaking the audience was unaware of what had just happened. Kennedy set aside his prepared remarks to speak from the heart and delivered one of the most compelling calls for peace and understanding in the United States.
“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists, is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”
“If any man claims the Negro should be content, . . .let him say he would willingly change the color of his skin and go live in the Negro section of a large city. Then, and only then, has he a right to such a claim.”
This picture is a needlepoint portrait from my “Persons of Interest” series. The title is a play on the phrase because the subjects of these portraits are people who have drawn the negative attention of governments and others who felt threatened by them, as well as being of particular interest to me because of how much they inspire me to be a better person and to dedicate myself to help other people. Portraits are approximate three feet square with 130,000 stitches and require 160 hours to complete.