For Robert Kennedy

A reflection is a nice way to start the morning. It’s a way of bringing the mind into the day in a way that isn’t influenced by lists, emails, or reason. I’m not sure how often I’ll post my morning reflections because let’s be honest, somedays I won’t want to share and somedays I just won’t do it, but when it feels right I’m going to share. If nothing else, consider this an accountability measure—a way of ensuring that I feel a slight twinge in the back of my mind that encourages me to take a few moments to welcome my thoughts into the morning.

When I felt the urge to read/write something this morning my mind immediately went to a thin book of Al Purdy poetry on the table beside my bed. Purdy’s poetry speaks to me because its insight carries an ‘everyman’ gruffness that makes the writing feel gritty and real. The book fell open to the poem pictured above, “For Robert Kennedy.”

I’ve learned to pay attention to these moments of serendipity.

I’d never read the poem before, but the title immediately struck a chord with me. When I was elected to be President of my University I was pretty close to being an RFK evangelist. I’d been majorly inspired by Thurston Clarke’s account of RFK’s run for office “The Last Campaign” and repeated a quotation from it over and over again during the early months of my term. It went something (and I’m paraphrasing intensely) like this:

‘I knew that there were two ways that I could change America—one, I could stand outside the White House and through rocks at it or two, I could go inside and not forget what made me different’

Some four years later, the quotation (or at least my version of it) still sticks in my head.

In my time at the Students’ Council I realized that going inside the system with the goal of being different is laudable, but also a bit paradoxical because the second you go inside you become the system to the people outside. I struggled with this during my time as President and have continued to fight against the existence of this paradox in the years after.

How can you possibly enfranchise the rock throwers if they view you as the thing to throw rocks at? It’s a good question, one that I still grapple with, but I’m also feeling like its time to resist the paralysis that it can create.

You have to act, even if that action is to stand still. The alternative is to do nothing and that doesn’t feel right either. Yet, there are no shortcuts to proving that you deserve trust as a systems disrupter or a systems actor. You have to earn it — from both sides. So I guess, what I’m saying is, you have to live the paradox.

So there you have it, I’ve hit the time allotment for this morning’s reflection so I’m going to stop now or else I’ll be here until tomorrow. There’s more to say about this poem because the words speak quite clearly to me about a completely different set of ideas, but in the interests of naturally reflecting, I I wrote what I wrote because that’s what was in my head. Maybe I’ll come back to this poem tomorrow, or maybe I’ll move onto something else. Let’s see what happens.

I’d love to hear what this poem says to you or what you think about what it stirred up in me so drop me a comment if you have something to say.


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