1. Kennedy’s Political Activism

Robert Kennedy was a very sophisticated man who grew up in one of the most famously known American families. RFK was involved in numerous activities and organizations throughout his life. His first major involvement was when he helped to advocate for his brother, John F. Kennedy, Presidential Campaign in the 1960 (Schmitt, The Register 373-5). RFK spent the majority of this time in the state of West Virginia and he befriended the people of West Virginia. Many people were skeptical of the Kennedy brothers because of their Roman Catholic faith. Most mountain people did not trust outside “invaders” coming into the region and trying to fix its problems (Eller 91). Also, many were tired of being told that they would be helped by the government and then nothing ever happening (Greider “Promises Have Failed, Sen. Kennedy Is Told”). JFK promised the people of West Virginia that he would work his hardest in alleviating poverty in the state, and in all of America if he were elected President Schmitt, The Register 375). RFK and JFK both pledged that they would do something to alleviate poverty within the United States.

Soon after JFK became President of the United States, he appointed Robert as the Attorney General. Then he created the President’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency, PCJD, in which RFK would be the head chair person. In this study, the PCJD studied the large amounts of crime involving the youth in large cities and how that correlated with the poverty in the region (Eller 96; Schmitt, The Register 376-7). As a result of the study, it is speculated that those youth coming from broken homes, bad environments, etc. were more likely to be involved in crime than those who did not come from such environments (Eller 96). RFK then became actively involved in trying to eliminate poverty within the large cities such as NYC, LA, and Chicago. Kennedy and his other advisers began to advocate for “community action” (Eller 95; Schmitt, The Register 378-; 380-1). Which means, the future of the United States really falls into the hands of the youth; therefore in order to reduce the amount of poverty, the anti-poverty programs must be ran by the “youth” and other community leaders rather than solely for them. Kennedy also endorsed the creation of a domestic Peace Corp, known as National Service Corp (later became known as VISTA) (Eller 95,101; Schmitt, The Register 377-8). In this program, college students and other volunteers would travel into poverty stricken areas and help “modernize” the mountaineers into the mainstream American culture.

After President Kennedy’s assassination, RFK lost his political “enthusiasm” and let the political scene sit on the back burner for a while (Schmitt, The Register 381-2). He eventually resigned as Attorney General, and was soon elected Senator (D-NY).  After Bobby had worked in the PCJD he had a better understanding of poverty and ways to which it could be alleviated. His primary focus was then in cities such as NYC.  To give the youth a chance at a decent life and to reduce crime in the city RFK advocated for parks and community centers to be built, and for the refurbishing of schools (Schmitt, The Register 382). The Appalachian Bill was also passed during the time of Kennedy’s Senate reign (Eller 84-6). He supported the bill a lot and wished for the numerous amounts of poverty to decrease in all of America, but especially in the hardest hit places such as West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. Also, Kennedy advocated his “tax-incentive” program to help reduce poverty(Schmitt, The Register 383). What he wanted to see was private organizations donate to the causes of poverty, and for big corporations to open factories in places that were stricken with large amounts of poverty. This would give the chance for those people to work in these factories and a chance of getting back on their feet. Kennedy also traveled to the Mississippi Delta where the enormous amounts of poverty struck him deeply. Kids did not have adequate amounts of food to eat due to the low levels of food-stamps their family received (Schmitt, The Register 375-6). This thoroughly broke his heart.

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