'RFK: His Words for Our Times' by Edwin O. Guthman & C. Richard Allen – Book Review

Category: Books and Music

We just passed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. 25 years ago I assisted on the book RFK: Collected Speeches, by Guthman and Allen. This year, Rick Allen has updated the original book and published it for a new generation. RFK: His Words for Our Times is definitely a book worth getting and reading as well as passing down from one generation to another.

Why did Robert Kennedy affect us so deeply, unlike any other politician to date? For many of us the week of the 50th anniversary was like experiencing PTSD. And yet this man was not a president (although he most likely would have been), and he was only a senator for a short time (unlike his brother who was in the senate for nearly 50 years).

There was something special RFK exuded that managed to touch people of all ages. His words and actions exemplified his inner desire to make life in this country as good as possible for all our citizens. He evolved through the years and was not afraid or embarrassed to admit when he had made mistakes.

The words of Robert Kennedy were eloquently spoken. He mixed quotations and imagery so beautifully and reading his speeches is, at times, like reading a well-crafted poem or essay. There isn’t anyone today who can turn a phrase like RFK did. And when he spoke, he spoke from his heart.

Reading the pages of this book brings back emotions and sparks memories of what was and what could have been. From one page to the next are the words and phrases of the man who experienced so much, saw conflicts and problems, and felt “obliged to do all that I can.” (From his presidential announcement.) RFK was the most prepared person to be president than anyone has ever been, and as readers read his words, they will definitely understand why he meant so much to so many of us. Even when he spoke extemporaneously (when discussing the death of Martin Luther King), he was still able to put words and phrases together in his own special way.

While adding his own flair to his speeches, and infusing them with quotations and imagery, RFK was able to state his feelings and explain the situations of the time with elegance, even when discussing the war. He made his views clear in speeches that will always be remembered.

The book also contains comments from today’s leaders as well as those who knew him and worked with him.

For Rick Allen, “Robert Kennedy’s words summon each of us to slip the bonds of our comfort or our burdens and instead fully engage in the struggles of our age.”

For those who were not alive during his life (and that includes two generations) and those who were too young to remember him, this book provides a window into the world of those of us who did live during his times. Perhaps by reading RFK’s words, a new generation will come to understand how remarkable he was in his rather short life.

This book is divided into three sections: 1948-1960, 1961-1964, and 1965-1968. As readers go from cover to cover, they read the evolution of RFK chronologically through the three phases of his public life.

I will always remember the images of him through the years, and the way he quoted poets and philosophers. Who does that today? But he didn’t just add them to his speeches to sound special. He chose quotes that meant something to him and to his subject matter. Rereading these pages is a cathartic experience.

And, as he quoted Aeschylus, “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.” Think about that.

Rick Allen has done a remarkable job of bringing back the words of Robert Kennedy in a way that will hopefully inspire new generations. Thank you, Rick, for updating the original book and keeping the spirit of RFK alive for today’s population.

Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (May 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 006283410X
ISBN-13: 978-0062834102

About the Reviewer

Francine Brokaw writes about books, products, travel, and entertainment. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books.

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