What Real Leadership Looks Like In A Time of National Crisis

A Brief Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

Posted June 5th, 2020 on Niagara At Large

The late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy

Fifty-two years ago this June 5th – on a sunny Friday just like this in 1968 – the world woke up to the news that U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy had been shot in the early morning of that day following what had been a joyous campaign gathering in Los Angeles, California.

In the early morning hours of the following day, June 6th, 1968, he was pronounced dead,

By 1968, Robert Kennedy or Bobby as many preferred to call him, had become a powerful voice for peace and for economic and racial justice and one can only imagine how much better his country and the world would be today had he, who was running for president that year, won, as it appeared he might do.

I thought of Bobby again in recent weeks as the world watched the current occupant of the White House threaten to militarize the streets of America to push away mostly young black, white and brown people protesting the murder of another African American at the hands of the  police.

With the area forcefully cleared of people protesting the murder of George Floyd and the air now clear of tear gas, the strong man is ready for his close-up

I thought about him when the world turned on their screens this past June 1st to disturbing scenes one might expect to see in a totalitarian state of heavily armed troops wielding shields and using chemical agents and exploding projectiles to clear a park of peaceful protesters so that the orange-face monster could do a photo op, holding a Bible he has probably never taken to heart lead a alone read, in front of a historic church that the preachers inside were outraged to see him use like a stage for a political ad.

I thought of Bobby, not so much for the anniversary of his assassination, but for an address he gave to a gathering of people and to his nation on April 4th, 1968 after learning that American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated earlier that day.

What a contrast that address was to the angry, divisive garbage coming out of the mouth of a small man who does not have the capacity to speak words of a healing nature.

To watch and hear Bobby Kennedy deliver what many political historians still consider one of the most moving speeches of the last 100 years, click on the screen below –

Here is some of the text from that speech –

Martin Luther King

“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 amongst blacks, and white amongst 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.”


Bobby Kennedy died on June 6th, 1968 at the age of 42.


To visit a commentary I posted on Niagara At Large on the 45th anniversary of the speech, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2013/04/05/a-few-great-words-spoken-on-the-night-american-civil-rights-leader-martin-luther-king-was-assassinated-45-years-ago-this-april-4th/

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

One response to “What Real Leadership Looks Like In A Time of National Crisis

  1. Linda McKellar

    I also thought of this speech many times in the past few days and of the courage it took to make it in front of what easily could have become, in a millisecond and with just cause, a hostile and violent audience.
    It is impossible not to compare Bobby Kennedy, his calm, his compassion and his empathy to the arrogant, bigoted, narcissistic sociopath in the White House hiding in the bunker. (Oops, I forgot, he was “inspecting it”. Maybe it needed new curtains.)
    It is night and day, darkness and light. Many white men would never have made it out of Indianapolis alive that night but Bobby made the dreadful announcement to gasps of horror and within a few minutes those assembled were calmed and even applauded because he had given them solace and a glimmer of hope.
    That is what the United States needs now, not some coward who tells others to “dominate” the protesters and fire rubber bullets, concussion grenades, pepper spray and tear gas at peaceful fellow citizens simply so he could have a photo op in front of a church he seldom attended while holding a bible he has never read and whose teachings he ignores.
    “Domination” is the absolute worst word to employ and precisely the source of the problems, 400 years of domination and dehumanization.
    It is hopeless to even try to make a comparison between the two men because it would go on forever but the simplest would be, one divides, one unifies.


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