R 342
98-H 9119
Enacted 6/29/98

J O I N T   R E S O L U T I O N


Introduced By: Representatives Caruolo, Henseler, Pires, Martineau and Anzeveno

Date Introduced : May 20, 1998

WHEREAS, Former United States Attorney General and United States Senator Robert Francis Kennedy, throughout his public life and his tenure in elected public offices, exemplified and elevated the noblest American traditions of justice, and personal sacrifice; and

WHEREAS, As U.S. Attorney General from 1961 through 1964, Robert F. Kennedy engineered and provided leadership for the Department of Justice campaigns against organized crime and racial discrimination, and was chiefly responsible for real and symbolic successes against those and other targets of his Department that to the present day remain unequaled; and

WHEREAS, Under the leadership of Robert F. Kennedy, the Department of Justice Organized Crime and Racketeering Section grew from 17 to 50 staffers; the days that Department lawyers spent in the field increased tenfold; the numbers of indictments secured and defendants convicted grew by almost 70 percent; and

WHEREAS, The positive and unprecedented impact of the policies of Robert F. Kennedy on the Department of Justice was systemic in scope, and appreciated by America's cultural, social and intellectual leaders as extending to diverse elements of government and society, as an observer wrote, "Mr. Kennedy brought first-rate men to the Justice Department and backed them up...(and) his enterprise in the civil rights fight was both aggressive and astute...he brought about good reforms in the federal prison system and in the area of juvenile delinquency..."; and

WHEREAS, Robert F. Kennedy made the same demands upon his own conscience and character that he made on the conscience and character of his nation, as an observer wrote, "Each time we saw him there was more to see. He could never be accurately measured, especially in terms of the past; he was always in the process of becoming."; and

WHEREAS, Robert F. Kennedy expanded, for his Department, for government and for all Americans, the practical definition of "justice" to include social and economic equality in his own nation and abroad, and profoundly understood the causes and character of injustice, and how to defeat it, as he said, "There is discrimination in New York, the racial inequality of apartheid in South Africa...People starve in the streets of India, a former Prime Minister is summarily executed in the Congo, intellectuals go to jail in Russia...These are differing evils; but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfections of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion...And therefore they call upon common qualities of conscience and indignation, a shared determination to wipe away the unnecessary sufferings of our fellow human beings at home and around the world."; and

WHEREAS, At a moment of extreme grief for the moral citizens of his nation, Robert F. Kennedy, ever-mindful of personal and family tragedy, spoke to an audience of African-Americans on the night that Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered, of the need to forgo violence and instead seek only the justice that their slain leader would have sought, as he said. "For those of you who are black...you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization -- black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another...Or we can make an effort...to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love."; and

WHEREAS, Robert F. Kennedy knew that the promise of universal justice that is within the very soul of America never can be measured in or be defined by the material wealth of America, as he said, "The gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to country. It measures everything...except that which makes life worthwhile; and it can tell us everything about America -- except whether we are proud to be Americans."; and

WHEREAS, Robert F. Kennedy championed the moral strength of the individual, even as he demanded nothing less than its full utilization in the ongoing battles for justice, as he said, "Each time a person 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, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."; and

WHEREAS, Robert F. Kennedy called upon the indefatigable energy that he believed to be present in every human being, regardless of age or physical condition, in order to defeat injustice, as he said, "The world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease..."; and

WHEREAS, Robert F. Kennedy appreciated the limitations of the letter of the law as a weapon to be wielded against historical and institutionalized injustice, as he said, "We have passed laws prohibiting discrimination in education, in employment, in housing, but these laws alone cannot overcome the heritage of centuries -- of broken families and stunted children, and poverty and degradation and pain."; and

WHEREAS, Robert F. Kennedy identified public service as an ideal method for the practical application of human energy and moral strength, and accepted that his own vocation encompassed the responsibility to inspire others to the service of their fellow human beings, as he said, "There is no greater need than for educated men and women to point their careers toward public service as the finest and most rewarding type of life. There is great danger, not only in politics but in many facets of our nation's social and economic life, that the ethical and moral approach has been reduced to the second rank of importance behind the twin goals of success and prosperity."; and

WHEREAS, Robert F. Kennedy understood the power of art and symbol to mend the most shattered human heart and reinvigorate the most ravaged human spirit, as he said, "My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote, 'In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the human heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.'"; and

WHEREAS, In his work and words, Robert F. Kennedy, throughout his lifetime, transcended the realm of partisan politics even as he ennobled his chosen profession, as an observer wrote, "In the chaotic discourse of American politics, some parcel out promises, others cash in on fear. Robert Kennedy bartered dreams."; and

WHEREAS, The name of Robert F. Kennedy is universally accepted as a symbol of justice; and

WHEREAS, The naming of a great public building symbolically bestows upon that edifice, and all that is undertaken within it, the moral strength and purpose of the so-honored individual; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That this General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby memorializes the President of the United States and the Congress of the United States to take the appropriate measures necessary for the naming of the United States Department of Justice Building as the Robert Francis Kennedy Building.

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