In 1969, Robert F. Kennedy was sworn in as the thirty-seventh President of the United States today, bringing a final end to a tumultuous campaign season that threatened to split the Democratic Party.
RFK Sworn In a story by Andrew Beane
Kennedy took the oath of office with his wife Ethel Kennedy holding his family Bible to a verse that his brother John quoted as thirty-fifth President: Luke 12:48, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked".
Though reluctant to run for the Presidency, Robert Kennedy was convinced to run by friends and family, and by the disastrous campaign in Vietnam, which culminated in the February Tet Offensive. Though criticized by some in the Democratic Party as an opportunist who was exploiting President Johnson's failures in the war against the communists in South Vietnam, Kennedy contended that Johnson had not only failed the soldiers serving in Vietnam, but American society here at home as well. "If we believe that we, as Americans, are bound together by a common concern for each other, then an urgent national priority is upon us. We must begin to end the disgrace of this other America. And this is one of the great tasks of leadership for us, as individuals and citizens this year".
As Kennedy sought to defeat the favored Vice President Hubert Humphrey in the state primaries, his campaign almost came to a halt on June 6th of last year. Kennedy narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian-American who felt betrayed by Kennedy's support for Israel during the 1967 Six Day War. A bullet grazed the right arm of the presidential hopeful, who otherwise remained unharmed.
During his inaugural speech, Kennedy vowed to seek a swift and responsible end to the Vietnam War, promising that American combat forces will leave Indochina within eighteen months of his taking office. He called the war "a disastrous failure, started with eyebrow-raising zeal and ill-conceived planning", and called it a crime that "so many of our young men were fed into the fire because of decisions based on questionable origins". Kennedy was referring to the disputed Gulf of Tonkin incident, which he promised to investigate. He also promised to return the military's focus on the Soviet threat in Europe, and accelerate desegregation and social justice "So that every man, woman and child in these beautiful United States may live the life that my dear brother John, my friend Martin Luther King Jr, and our Lord Jesus Christ all died to secure".