Forty years ago today, Robert Kennedy was assassinated in California after winning the Democratic primary for president. How many of us never cease to wonder how our world would be different had he lived and won the election?
Last night, Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination for president, something I never thought I'd see in my lifetime. With all due credit to Mike Dorning of the Chicago Tribune, here are the first few paragraphs of his story this morning:
"Within the living memory of many in this country, the simple act of encouraging black Americans to reach for a vote - never mind an actual political office - was enough to risk a brutal death and a shallow grave.
In some of the arenas Barack Obama has filled by the tens of thousands in his historic campaign for the presidency, he once would not have been able to take so much as a sip from the water fountain.
Yet in a country with a tortured racial history - institutionalized slavery, a bloody civil war, wrenching Supreme Court rulings, riots in the streets and the modern realignment of its political parties - the victory by the 46-year-old senator from Illinois writes a new chapter in the American story."
Rather than belabor the obvious symbolic congruences between what Robert Kennedy's legacy might have been and the promise of healing so many injustices that Barack Obama's campaign inspires, I'll end now and simply refer you to a YouTube video on Obama's life that's set to one of the most significant and enduring social protest songs of my generation, the great Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come.