Tag Archives: Robert F. Kennedy

I Have A Dream, Too

January 15th has always been a holiday in my house, but that’s because it’s my Dad’s birthday. I know he respects Martin Luther King Jr. and his incredible efforts, and there’s an honor in being birthday buddies with a famous person. But it probably gets frustrating when everyone is focused on the birthday of one of the most admired figures in history as if you and your birthday are an afterthought. (Trust me, I know how that feels).

I’ve read many commentaries about President Obama’s recent speech, and pundits on both sides of the spectrum gave him high marks for the tone and content of the message. In the aftermath of this tragic shooting, with thousands of people in attendance and millions watching across the world, Obama celebrated the lives and spirits of those who lost their lives and asked us all to use the event as a catalyst for sanity. Without having to state the obvious phrase life is short, he called upon us to look within ourselves as people and put things into perspective. Be a society that would live up to the ideals of a young girl. Be selfless, giving, aware and courteous to our friends and neighbors and workmates in a world that has become insular, argumentative and polarized.

Tone down the rhetoric and…talk. And listen.

King’s famous speech, although focused on equality and civil rights, called for much the same thing. For here, too, was an angry segment of the population yearning for change and so frustrated that they were moving beyond reason and towards violence. But as King called for things to be set right, he did so with a critical caveat. “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence…

That speech was forty-eight years ago. We haven’t learned much.

I will admit that I was nauseated by some of the coverage of the events in Tucson. Really, networks? Must we have a slogan and a title card for everything? Was there an emergency meeting where PR hacks argued choices until Tragedy In Tucson was chosen for its alliteration and brevity? Are anchors really looking at this as one more network competition to be won?

But the most upsetting thing of all was realizing that if one of the victims wasn’t a Congresswoman, none of this might have been a ripple on the news that day. Sadly, people get shot all the time. Frequently, a disgruntled employee or customer will fire off rounds in a store or a workplace, and we are so numbed by the violence that we take a moment to shudder but then move on.

What if it wasn’t Gabrielle Giffords who was shot? What if on that day, a disturbed man opened fire in that supermarket and killed and wounded everyone else, just everyday people going in and out of a store? People would still be dead and critically wounded in a senseless act of violence, but would the President be there? Would all the networks drop everything else and cover the event 24/7? Would every anchor and talking head be jostling for face time on TV to discuss the event. No, no, and no.

But it was her, and here we are…again. From King to Robert F. Kennedy to John Lennon to Barack Obama, we constantly are reminded how fragile and unstable society can be and we make concerted efforts to change our ways to be better people. But as Obama stated, “scripture tells us there is evil in the world“, and we succumb to it and are affected by it. I don’t need scripture to tell me there is evil in the world, I can see it all around me. But I also see another opportunity for us to be shell-shocked into discussing our behavior as a society, and I hope that maybe this time we can make some real progress. Maybe we can finally find our way and become the America all those victims – from the famous leaders to the nine-year old girl – thought we were capable of.

Stop hating. Start solving.

That is my dream.

So today I pay tribute to two great men. One led a very public life of peace and passion and was an inspiration to his people, and his actions changed the course of history. And one unselfishly sacrificed himself countless times to provide a better life for his son, showing him by example that confidence and a moral compass would enable him to truly become a man.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.

5 Comments

Filed under Editorials

Re-Opening Channel D

The Last of the Magnificent Seven

The Last of the Magnificent Seven

When I was young, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a smash hit. Boys wanted to be like Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin; suave and cool secret agents who could dazzle the ladies and get the best of the bad guys (or was that the  other way around?) Girls just wanted Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, the handsome actors who portrayed those gadget-touting hipsters. It was one of many important lessons I’d learn over the years about women and how they think. But it was also an opportunity to discover Robert Vaughn, who has led a fascinating life far beyond his accomplishments as a television and film star.

Vaughn’s book A Fortunate Life is more of a memoir than an autobiography; he does not dwell on his childhood and adolescence for chapters on end nor does he make his hit television show the focus of his book. In fact, Vaughn takes us through a series of events and relationships as a confidante where the focus is seeing through his eyes rather than looking at him. It’s a subtle but clever move that makes for a vastly entertaining read (I devoured it in one sitting) aided by the fact that Vaughn is one of the most intelligent and erudite actors on the planet. Being witty as hell doesn’t hurt, either.

The book came out late last year and I finally made time to get a copy this weekend; for some reason I felt compelled to do so immediately. As a child of the times, I admit I enjoyed reading anecdotes about his contemporaries like James Coburn and Steve McQueen, but I was spellbound by his recollections of the political climate. Vaughn was the first actor to speak out publicly against the Vietnam War, and was an activist who ran the gamut from stumping for candidates to debating William F Buckley on hostile ground (no small feat, Buckley regularly ate opponents for breakfast). 

His close relationship with Robert F. Kennedy and the subsequent tragedy brought back vivid memories for me, having lived through the times.  After JFK and Martin Luther King were felled by assassins, many felt RFK was the last hope for America, and his Presidential campaign radiated even more fervor, optimism and hope that Obama brought to the 2008 election. When he was gunned down after the California primary, the youth of America was numb. Vaughn has very strong opinions about what really happened that night.

I mentioned that Vaughn is whip-smart. Few know that his Doctoral thesis was written about Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare era in Hollywood, and later published under the title Only Victims. I read the book last year while reseaching the Hollywood Blacklist, as it’s considered one of the definitive works on the subject and is a staple at many law schools. Vaughn is thorough but never condescending, a trait echoed in his new book as well.

Vaughn has always been a “working actor”, which loosely translated means he’s got a few stinkers on his resume over the years. Television was exploding when he was breaking into the business, and like many actors of his generation he cut his teeth playing guest roles on dozens of shows. He has a short-lived series prior to UNCLE called The Lieutenant and most recently has come full circle playing a con artist in the British series Hustle. But he’s also etched several landmark film performances into history, from The Magnificent Seven to Bullitt to The Bridge at Remagen. I just grabbed the DVD of The Young Philadelphians so I can watch it tonight; a young Vaughn was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (he lost to Hugh Griffith from Ben Hur) playing opposite Paul Newman.

I’ve read a few interviews with Robert Vaughn over the years and he seems like a charming, witty and intelligent man. That’s what you’ll think, too, when you read this book. Enjoy!

Still the coolest dude in the room at 76 years young

Still the coolest dude in the room at 76 years young

A recent BBC interview to promote the book.

Robert Vaughn’s filmography at IMDB.com

Get your Man From U.N.C.L.E. fix with the complete DVD set and a book about the series.

Also check out Hustle The Avengers meets Oceans 11

man from uncle

Leave a comment

Filed under Film/TV, Reviews