Vice President Joe Biden spoke eloquently about the state of our country as he received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award on Tuesday night from Ethel Kennedy. Master of Ceremonies Kevin Nealon, Alan Alda, Alec Baldwin (who brought out his Trump impersonation for the occasion while helming the auction), Joy Behar, Harry Belafonte, Michael Bolton (who performed), Lorraine Bracco, Tim Daly, Danny Devito, Trevor Donovan, Giancarlo Esposito, Danny Glover, Tony Lo Bianco, Kate Mulgrew and Rosie Perez were among the bold faces who contributed to the evening.
Also honored were Starbucks Chairman and Chief Executive Office Howard Schultz and Scott Minerd, Chairman of Investments and Global Chief Investment Office, Managing Partner Guggenheim Partners.
Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, one of the foremost international forces for social justice as well as advancing corporate responsibility, spoke. New friend, Jean Shafiroff hosted a table that included Sharon Bush and Matt Rich.
Biden commanded the room for 25 minutes, calling Robert Kennedy his only “political hero” and looking back to the political climate of the late 60s to give perspective on where we are today. Biden, then, was an up and coming star in a tony white shoe law firm. After second chairing a trial with a senior partner, Biden turned down an invitation to lunch at “a fancy club that didn’t allow Catholics like me to join, in those days, or African Americans” and walked across the street to a basement office to ask for a job at the public defenders office. When the man questioned why Biden would leave a high paying job for his. Biden said, he replied, “‘I don’t feel right.’ And all I could think about, not explicitly but implicitly was ‘What would Robert Kennedy do?'”
Later, Biden recalled being elected at the age of 29 to the United States Senate. “I wasn’t even old enough to be sworn in the day I got elected. I was the first United States Senator I ever knew. Shortly after, my wife and three children were Christmas shopping. A tractor trailer broadsided them and killed my wife and killed my daughter. Know who the first person to show up in my hospital room was? Teddy Kennedy. One of the first calls I got was from Mrs. Kennedy, Rose Kennedy. The Kennedys did everything they always did. The Kennedys understood, they embraced they listened.”
Listening: “That’s what I try to do,” Biden said. “That’s what Robert Kennedy did. Believing that even in moments like now, when this country seems so divided, we can still find common hopes and aspirations. It need not be this false choice between social justice and economic opportunity. They go hand in hand.”
He continued, “We have to take a hard look at hard truths about our country now and our economy and why so many people feel left out. Stop being blinded by anger and start listening and seeing each other. I’m old enough not to be naive. I know it’s really hard, but I’m still optimistic. I know it’s possible. My mother had an expression: ‘Bravery lives in every heart and one day it will be summoned.’ It’s being summoned now.”
For more information about the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, visit rfkhumanrights.org.