One of the many pleasures of reading Thurston Clarke’s book ‘The Last Campaign – Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America’ is the introduction it provides to RFK’s fierce moral rhetoric. How about this, from a speech he gave to twenty thousand students at the University of Kansas, right at the beginning of his fight to secure the Democratic nomination in ’68:
”Our gross national product, now, is over eight hundred billion dollars a year, but the GNP – if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead….and the television programmes which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage…it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”
He had me at “gross national product”.