Tomorrow my thoughts will drift back to the night of June 6, 1968. I remember sitting with my mother, the late Susie Leone Rich, and watching in stunned disbelief as a news bulletin announced the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. We were unable to speak or sleep that night, yet through silent tears my mother, sensing instinctively what I was thinking and feeling but unable to express, quietly gathered pen and paper and put to words a poem dedicated to all those who fall in the cause of freedom and justice. She could not know then that three short months later her own beloved son Peter would sacrifice his life in Vietnam.
Lincoln said : “All that I am or ever hope to be I owe to my mother.” This then is my tribute to you, mom, and my dear brother and best friend, Pete. And to my life’s heroes : Bobby, Jack and Jackie, Teddy and Martin:
His Dream Lives on:
A tower of strength was he — so tall!
Yet not too great to touch the small;
He ran with zest his earthly race
With helping hand and fearless grace.
And on his way — he paused,
To wipe the weary brow of all who toiled with pen — or plow.
For him, no color barrier stood; it never should; it never could
stand in his way.
The path he trod was rough but right
And freedoms cause could make it light;
Relentlessly he journeyed on
through darkest night to reach the dawn
“Come, follow me!” he turned to say;
I’ll hold your hand if you should stray
from paths of duty – honor – right.
The goal we seek is just in sight
if we but pray.”
The torch he passed to us we claim
with pride and courage in his name;
The crown he won with sweat and tears
will lead us on through all the years —
Dear one, who sleeps in hallowed ground
we cannot — must not — let you down;
For you who friend and foe acclaim
the flame etneral will not wane
but guide us on.
Your dream must see reality,
the land you loved not shackled be
by chains of prejudice and hate —
but be reborn before too late —
Fred Rich LaRiccia,
(Writer’s Note: Susie Leone Rich was a public school teacher for twenty years and raised 10 very grateful children. The writer interned for the late Senator Ted Kennedy and is a Founding Member of the Honorary Fellows of the John F. Kennedy Library.)