Sunday, November 12, 2017

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews

"Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." - Aeschylus

This was part of Robert Kennedy's speech in Indianapolis when he told the crowd Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. It was a poem by his favorite poet. Chris Matthews refers to his new biography, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, as a personal biography. He lets readers know where he was in his life, and his personal beliefs, as well as his parents, at crucial moments in Kennedy's life. He acknowledges there are numerous other books, including two that he says have stood the test of time, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s Robert Kennedy and His Times, and Evan Thomas' Robert Kennedy: His Life.

It's always tempting to make a book about the Kennedys personal. Where were you when you heard John F. Kennedy was assassinated? Where were you when you heard Robert Kennedy was assassinated? I was young, only eleven when Robert Kennedy was killed, but my husband, who read everything about the Kennedys, always thought Robert Kennedy would have been a better president, and that Aeschylus quote hung on the wall in his den. He admired him, and everything he stood for. He would have eagerly read Matthews' book.

And, it's worth reading Bobby Kennedy, whether you remember him or not. Matthews chronicles the changes in Kennedy, from the third son, the weak one, who yearned for his father's approval, to the position of a man who wanted justice, and wanted to confront the oppressor, to a man who understood and wanted to help the oppressed. It covers his time as his brother's campaign manager, attorney general, and candidate. But, the book really covers the development of Kennedy's own values and moral code. In Kennedy's own book, The Enemy Within, he concludes with words that defined him. Matthews quotes him, the "toughness and idealism that guided our nation in the past," a "spirit of adventure, a will to fight what is evil, and a desire to serve."

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit is easy to read because it has Matthews' personal touch. For those of us who only know the legends of the Kennedys, it's a moving account of changing beliefs and the life of a man who changed the country, whose promise of so much more was cut short.

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Christ Matthews. Simon & Schuster. 2017. ISBN 9781501111860 (hardcover), 396p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.


Carol N Wong said...

Hoping to read this one. He has a special place in my heart.

Lesa said...

Excellent book, Carol.