Thursday, June 5, 2008
Remembering Robert Kennedy
June 5 will always be a day that I remember. It started out the same way as all of the other days that week. I put on my military uniform and we headed for Harvard School. Before we left, I organized some campaign material as my mother needed packets made. She was on the Kennedy Campaign committee.
Robert Kennedy wrote my mother a personal letter 5 days before his death. I found that letter in 2006 and cried.
We came home and my mother was already at the Ambassador Hotel. That was her daily stop after work. She loved going there and every election my father and she worked feverishly to aid their chosen candidate. I can remember handing out pamphlets all over the neighborhood as early as John Kennedy's campaign and playing at the Los Angeles Sports Arena during the Democratic National convention in 59 I think it was.
My mother came home in tears and I, of course found out what happened. I was angry. Martin KIng had just been shot and John Kennedy had been shot years before. Let us not forget Medgar Evers and others.
That was my last campaign. It was awkward for me to see others feversishly campaigning for Nixon later that year. He won the election and HR Haldeman was in the white has as his Chief of STaff. HR Haldeman was an alumnus of my school and his son was in the class ahead of me. He withdrew from the school and moved to Washington DC. I was confused on what to feel.
When I stop consuming substances, I wrote alot of Bobby Kennedy. I studied him greatly. Something inside me started to live again. I wanted to campaign again. I remembered meeting his son Robert Junior at Harvard. A week later , after I remembered meeting his son, a friend called me and told me that my picture was in a new University of Pennsylvania publication. It was a Photo history of the school.
I was on page 110. He sent me a copy. Robert Kennedy was on page 109. The picture of me was taken in 1972 when I was visiting Penn. Penn was recruiting me to play tennis. I went to Harvard afterwards and I met RFK jr. on that trip. I came back down to Penn , after leaving him and the picture was taken. I had on the same clothes that I was wearing when I met him. And there I was standing there, on the page after the picture of his father. I was very proud. Amazing that that could happen. The picture of his father had been taken in 66 on a trip to the campus.
It was a fluke that my friend found that photo book at the Penn book store and found my picture. But maybe it was not a fluke. They say God works in mysterious ways.
He sent me that book in 2006. I found the letter Robert Kennedy sent to my mother in 2006 around this time of the year. It was a month later when my world would collapse.But I kept thinking about how Albert Camus changed Robert Kennedy's philopsophy on the death penalty. He was against the death penalty even though his brother had been murdered. That issue was never something about which I wondered until my grandmother was murdered. It is funny how every thing changes. Views change or are challenged when tragic events touch ho
The Kennedy philosophy was to maintain the high road, no matter what. and that is exactly what I did when I landed on Skid Row. I kept remembering what I read about RFK jr and how he gave his word that he would never do heroin again when his wife confronted him about the matter. He kept that promise.
RFK Jr was a role model for me. If he could do it. I could do it. When I stopped I never touched it again. I wanted to enjoy my sobriety. I looked forward to it.
I was arrested, not once, but twice and languished in a jail dormitory the second time for some time until my case, a misdeamenor was settled.
I noticed that my voice and my hands had healed. those were the two ways I could enjoy my sobriety. I could not train in the swimming pool, or ride my bike or run on a track. For months I wondered what it would feel like to do those activities.
After all, triathlon training is the vehicle I used to retire from substance abuse.
I have yet to find out what it is like to train and not use substances afterwards. I will find out soon.
It was not difficult to keep my promise about never using drugs again. I did have some difficulty in finding the beauty of being clean and sober while living in a court ordered shelter on Skid Row. Much difficulty.
I had to just be thankful that I was no longer doing it. I had to maintain integrity even when things were bad. I could not look for an excuse because being sober was not convenient. I maintain my self integrity and that feeling of integrity grew and I practiced the lifestyle of self integrity every day. I thought of the things my parents taught me and the values they instilled in me. I thought of men like Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, and Robert.
I thought of how important it was to stay on the high road when the low road had its gates open for one to explore and lead oneself into oblivion. Fortunately the teachings of my parents and the examples of the above mentioned men kept me on the high road no matter how painful life was and how limited my enjoyment.
I have seen two or three men this week who were with me at the Transition House last year. They have not progressed and are back on the streets homeless. It hurts to see that but I was told once by a friend of mine, Mark Harmon, while we were discussing the suicide of one of our mutual friends. Mark, forever the leader, said to me," Walter, it is our responisibility and obligation to go on and keep going".
Poignant words at a time when I still grieve the deaths of those men and others. I may not be with them physically but I am enjoying, finally in my life, living by the principles and standards that they set for a person to challenge themselves and practice, every day, love for self and love for your fellow man.
These are the principles that eluded me when I was doing drugs.
So I write about Robert Kennedy again. This time I am not beginning my journey of purity. I am not fighting to maintain the course. I am walking the walk with warmth inside of my soul with the excitement that I will learn more about self improvement and the enjoyment of it.
Robert Kennedy meant alot to my mother. He meant and means a lot to me. It took me a whole week to write this. I needed time to think and understand many things.
It is Sunday morning and, again, I am on my way to see my mother. I am proud of myself.
My mother told me in the darkness of the living room, "Walter, you have matured right in front of my eyes."
Even though I had to face some challenges, I stayed on the high road and fortunately I earned the right to taste a little of what it feels like to perservere and maintain the course through times of big storms. They did it. I learned from the expamples of these men and my mother and father who as Mark Harmon said, kept going when there was no other choice.
From the work, I am now celebrating his life and showing it every day. I am coming back alive and search for ways to be of service to my fellow man and to this country.
Something that died in me, that prevented me doing any more campaigning is alive again. That was a big part of my family purpose, to make sure people voted.
I can not vote now. However, principles should not be exercised only when it is convenient and comfortable. I must do what I can until the time comes when I can vote again. My father, rest in peace, would expect that and I trust that he is smiling down upon me, knowing that his son is back.
I did not do it by myself. As Robert Kennedy said, and I have said many times,
it was because of "the awful grace of God."
It is time for me to get ready to see my mother. I have more to say when I come back as I am changing and this Skid Row experience is the reason for the change. But for now. It is time for me to enjoy my mother. God bless everyone.
Good morning , world, I love you.