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As a 20 year-old in the spring of 1968 I experienced my first stirrings of political activism inspired by the presidential candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy. Because of Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights and to solving problems of economic inequality, I began campaigning for him at my college. As a young idealist, I hoped to be a part of the causes he championed knowing now that I, too, could make a difference.

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”

Robert Kennedy spoke about race relations in a broadcast to over sixty countries via the Voice of America radio network. As reported at the time, Kennedy said,  "There's no question that in the next thirty or forty years a Negro can also achieve the same position that my brother has as President of the United States, certainly within that period of time." Kennedy acknowledged the imperfections of equal rights in the United States but said that everything pointed to continued progress.

But his life ended on June 6, 1968. After viewing Robert Kennedy’s funeral train, I wrote this journal entry:

The dirt path, surrounded by a sea of high weeds and brambles, was steep so I had to walk carefully as I climbed the embankment.  A small crowd had already gathered at the platform.  I stood silently by the railings for a short while when I heard the train whistle. As I gazed at the train in the distance, I wondered,  “How does one give a meaningful farewell?” The train rapidly approached, and in a few seconds the engine passed.  Car after car sped by, a strong wind seemed to pull me closer.  I turned quickly when the last car passed and on the platform stood a figure slowing waving to the responding crowd.  I raised my hand, waived and smiled – for in that moment I knew hope would live on.

The same inspiration that I drew from Robert Kenney compelled me to see the Obama train today.  The logistics made the planning difficult. Because of intense security, timetables were vague, there were reports that people would be kept 150 feet from the track, platforms were closed. When I started out to find a location to stand, the temperature was 10 degrees. The Chester station was open, but within minutes we were chased off the platform by men in dark coats accompanied by large dogs.  Luckily my friend knew of another location off of a back neighborhood street where we might stand.  When we arrived at an overpass, people were beginning to gather at the embankment. People sang, young people screamed, most tried to keep moving in the cold. We didn’t have to wait too long before the train passed. Obama's vintage rail car, known as Georgia 300, was tacked onto the back of a 10-car train. In just seconds, the waiving figure passed us.

Barack Obama spoke in Philadelphia, just minutes before, “Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but the beginning and the hope for the future." I knew why I had again stood alongside the train tracks over forty years later.

Originally posted to forrest on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:42 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It came right through my neighborhood... (4+ / 0-)

    and my fucking video camera wouldn't turn on.  I am still cussing over it.  But it was very cool seeing that historic train roll on by.  

    "...America can change. Our union can be perfected." President-Elect Barack Obama

    by Jack Dublin on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:57:21 PM PST

  •  Too bad (0+ / 0-)

    Obama threw Howard Dean under his train of hope.

    Men with guns maturing in age will always pay a shitty wage.--Belle & Sebastian

    by andrewj54 on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 09:09:25 PM PST

  •  I was at his speech in Baltimore (5+ / 0-)

    There must have been 50,000 people there, or more! We waited for hours in the cold in order to see him.

    "I'm going to be on you like a numerator on a denominator." -Principal Skinner

    by dufffbeer on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 09:20:17 PM PST

  •  First time I've ever said this, (8+ / 0-)

    I am so depressed by, and disappointed in this site--which is usually the first place I've gone every morning for the past four+ years. To find out what's going on, and what some great writers are saying about it.

    But tonight, the blog that is all about electing Democrats has nothing on the front page or on the rec list about the Inauguration train, the huge crowds along the route, the speeches given by our new Democratic leaders (NOTE:  the two top leaders of this country are now Democrats, you know, those things we're supposed to be all about getting into office). And the second comment on this thread is a petty bitchout.  

    I'm a Deanic from the beginning, and wouldn't have become active in politics if not for him.  But goddamn it - I have a right to celebrate, and I'd like some to be going on here at DailyKos, the site that's supposed to be about electing Democrats.

    So, I guess we elect 'em, and then immediately--before they're even in charge--go back to being depressed, hopeless, pissed off, bitchy, negative and hopeless.  

    Thank you for trying, Forrest.  Nice diary, it moved me.  And thanks, Jack Dublin, for a pleasant comment.  Now I'm going to head over to Huffpo and spend a little time with a whole bunch of people who are rejoicing, enjoying the moment, celebrating the day, and are not afraid to let go of their fear and cynicism for just a little while.   Yeah, I know - they're just shallow, stupid sheeple.  Thank you for your uplifting opinion--I'm going to baaaah happily for the next few days, kick up my heels--and screw all the nattering negative ninnies of the left.  Then after the Inauguration, tell me how much good you've done in the world, how much you've changed things for the better, and, by the way, how you'll be in for the Nobel Peace Prize for fixing the mess in Gaza while the rest of us were messing around enjoying what we accomplished on November 4th.  

    •  . (0+ / 0-)

      Hope, change win; Barack Obama, your time is now

      by hyper on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 10:00:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you ravenwind. You said everything (0+ / 0-)

      that's on my mind.  I am so disappointed in DKos lately when there is so much to be happy and excited about.  See you at HuffPo.

      Thank you for your diary forrest.  The video brought a tear to my eye.

    •  Negativity (0+ / 0-)

      I believe two concepts are out of alignment: balance and accountability.  While writing the diary, thoughts were streaming through my head for all the reasons we shouldn't be waving flags at the train. Politicians aren't perfect.   But that's one story; another is that people are encouraged and they want to do something.  We must celebrate the victories to be balanced.  Even if the politicians don't always follow through, I know hope lies within myself and those folks from Chester standing by the tracks. The train is the metaphor for that hope.

      Appreciate your feedback.

  •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

    But by the time I got to my computer late today, it was  gone.  I hope there weren't a lot of negative comments.  Raining on parades doesn't change the situation in Iraq nor get rid of the (so-called) War on Drugs.

  •  one of my favorite sights today - Michelle (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    being in Maryland I watched the coverage thru the local reporters. When Michelle went down into the crowd after President Elect Obama's speech, there was a warmth in the body language she exuded that was just natural. I loved how she reached out to everyone in sight, but not in the quick finger touch and move on way. She stopped, looked at them, touched their hands, grasped hands, her hand on their shoulder in assurance and really liked her wiping tears from the older women that were clearly having a true moment of joy on what was occurring in the our country. It was very uplifting.

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