The R.F.K. Bridge, At Last

rfk The R.F.K. Bridge, At LastWhen the children of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy came to the family dinner table every evening, they were expected to know a poem by heart. So it was fitting when his daughter Kerry recited a classic poem of Langston Hughes this morning, at the marvelous ceremony rededicating the former Triborough Bridge in her father’s name.

That poem concludes ”Let America be America again”—and there was a powerful sense of that possibility in the remarks delivered by Kerry, her brother Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former President Bill Clinton, and M.T.A. chairman Lee Sander.

Especially moving were the comments of Gov. David Paterson, who spoke of Sen. Kennedy as his boyhood hero. Both he and Hizzoner evoked Jack Newfield, the late journalist who was a close Kennedy friend (and whose memoir of their friendship remains one of the best books about R.F.K.).

President Clinton received a warm welcome from the Kennedys, many of whom had supported Barack Obama in the primary against his wife. He asked that New Yorkers pause to think of R.F.K. and the meaning of his life ”whenever we cross this bridge, for the rest of our lives.”

The ceremony ended with the governor presenting the bill that renamed the bridge to Ethel Kennedy, and an antique car procession that inaugurated the R.F.K. Bridge.

As one of millions inspired by him, I was moved and honored to be present for this great moment. Robert Kennedy has deserved a monument for 40 years. The symbolism of this choice, at this moment—a bridge that put thousands to work during the worst years of the Great Depression—could not be more appropriate.