This piece was originally published for The Round website back in 2018.
By Will Barber Taylor
Robert Francis Kennedy, known as Bobby, is perhaps less known to the world than his elder brother JFK. Yet both brothers were incredibly charismatic politicians, gunned down in their prime by sadistic mad men who wanted to extinguish two of the most positive influences on American politics in the Twentieth Century. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of RFK’s death and to commemorate this, Netflix recently released a series marking Kennedy’s dramatic attempt to gain the Democratic Nomination for President in 1968 which would ultimately lead to his untimely death. The series also follows Kennedy’s political journey from his elder brother’s campaign manager, to Attorney General in the Kennedy Administration to becoming Senator for New York.
What is remarkable about the documentary is that, though it chronicles the life of a man who died five decades ago, it is full of life. Bobby Kennedy comes alive not just as an inspiring orator, a powerful campaigner and an effective administrator but also as a human being. The very facet which turned voters on to both Kennedy brothers comes through strongly throughout the programme and it is immediately clear that Kennedy truly was a caring man. His passion for wanting to make life better for people who were underprivileged is shown through his 1968 campaign – Kennedy’s vibrant and powerful oratory is evermore brought alive by the documentary, his words resonating with us as much today as it did in the 1960s.
The series’ portrayal of Bobby’s journey to becoming a liberal icon through his work in the justice department is perhaps where the series truly finds its soul – the raw emotion to Kennedy’s devotion to justice and the improvement of the lives of the poor is incredibly potent. The combination of footage from the time and the recollections of figures like John Lewis allows the viewer to not only completely understand and empathise with Kennedy’s fight for justice but able to also understand his battle with gaining votes and changing America for the better.
Bobby Kennedy was a truly unique American politician. Though he came from one of the richest families in the land his passion for helping others shone through and made him a whirlwind of energy, ideas and talent. His family exemplified the American dream like no other political dynasty and for many are still the First Family of the United States.
Bobby Kennedy for President demonstrates this perfectly and harnesses the raw exuberance that Kennedy had in life and channels it onto our screens in a way that few other documentaries have done previously. The impact Kennedy had during the 1960s on both people and politics is excellently portrayed by the series and it is clear, from the very start until the closing credits of the final episode why Bobby Kennedy was, and still is, beloved by millions of Americans and seen as an emblem of hope and change. Bobby Kennedy may never have become President, but this series will make you wish he had.