Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Friday, January 21, 2011

Honoring Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy

By Tracy Russo

Earlier today, on the 50th anniversary of his swearing-in as Attorney General, the Department of Justice came together to celebrate the achievements and enduring contributions of Robert F. Kennedy.  Joined by Kennedy family members, including his wife, Ethel Kennedy, renowned civil rights leaders, historians and current and former Justice Department employees this event commemorated the life and service of our nation’s 64th Attorney General.

Attorney General Eric Holder reflected on the enduring legacy of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, noting:

No one can doubt how Robert Francis Kennedy chose to use the law when he was Attorney General.  He taught us that law can be a powerful force for good – if we are willing, as he was, to roll up our sleeves, to summon our courage and our best efforts, and to lead from the front lines of change.

In doing just that, Attorney General Kennedy championed the cause of the least among us – and made our nation more just, more fair, and more humane.  He was not afraid to dream a better world and to act to create it.

However, the Attorney General also pointed to the work left still to do:

In his first speech as Attorney General, Robert Kennedy argued that the time for apathy had long since passed; that it was time to, “[prove] to the world that we really mean it when we say that all men are created free and equal before the law.”

“All of us,” he said, “might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world – but we don’t.  And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.”

Despite all that’s been accomplished in recent decades, we – still – do not live in tranquil times.  We continue to face difficulty, injustice, division, and an array of challenges that can serve to sharpen our skills, steel our resolve, focus our energy, and impel us to action.

In times like these, the importance of Robert Kennedy’s work becomes ever clearer…
So, as we celebrate Robert Kennedy’s life and his impact on this Department, let us also commit ourselves to carrying on – and carrying out – his mission to make gentle the life of this world, and to make good on the promise of our nation.  Let us answer his call, “to face up to our nation’s problems and live up to its founding principles.”  And let us heed the wisdom of his extraordinary example.

In marking this special anniversary, the Justice Department is pleased to release a selection of historic photos from the Department’s archives. These images capture Attorney General Kennedy at work in the Department, at home with his family, and in public with people from all corners of the globe.

Also, for the first time, the Department of Justice library has compiled and digitized a collection of Robert F. Kennedy’s statements and speeches from his tenure as Attorney General. These speeches, from 1961 to 1964 provide a window into the world of the Justice Department during that time.

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