The Capital Gazette and Ripples of Hope


I spent the last week of June on the North Carolina coast with my family, a welcome break from the deadlines and commitments of a career in journalism. But I’m never far away from this column, even with an ocean breeze distracting my senses. So when away, I brainstorm ideas with the hope of landing one that might be of interest to you. If not the kind of sports column that changes you, at least one to help distract in the right way.

Then on June 28th — my Thursday at the beach — five journalists at the Capital Gazette in Maryland died by gunfire in their offices, slain by a person unable to process anger but all too able to purchase a firearm. The horror felt intensely personal. These were my people, doing what my colleagues and I do every day. They shared my interests, my curiosity, my priorities. Informing the world — now and then, enlightening the world — was their call to duty. Never should such a career require an escape plan for an “active shooter” attack.

But here’s the important catch, one “my people” would surely emphasize if they could: These were our people, all of us. There can be no more “us,” no more “them” if we — that universal pronoun — are to coexist. I know this because Bobby Kennedy told us so.

Much of my week in Carolina unfolded through the pages of Ripples of Hope, Kerry Kennedy’s superb collection of interviews and speeches by people of impact who found a spark of inspiration from RFK (the author's father) that grew into what might be seen as a collective flame. This may be the only book in which Bono and Van Jones share eloquent salutes to the same human being, the same spark. It's a flame that can fuel progress — it must, really — if only we’ll find a way to finally, as RFK put it, “tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world.”

It’s inspiring, to say the least, to consider the relevance of RFK’s vision today, now a half-century since his assassination. It’s also maddening, the realization that so much remains to be done to approximate the world RFK hoped could be achieved, one in which the deprived can count on the fortunate to improve their chances for a happy, healthy life. I finished his daughter’s salute the day after five innocent people died from gunfire. In a news room. There is so much savageness left to tame.

The photo above was a wedding gift to my dad (also named Frank) in December 1967. Dad had a friend who worked on Capitol Hill, close enough to Senator Kennedy for such a gift to be possible. It hangs in my study now, and steers my thoughts in the right direction when frustrations — or sorrows — mount. I wonder what Bobby Kennedy did with the rest of his day after signing this picture. I know he made an impact, took a step toward his definition of progress.

One particular RFK quotation squeezed my heart in the aftermath of the Capital Gazette murders. I hope it finds life as a reborn ripple of hope.

There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of the comfortable past which, in fact, never existed.

Let's find a comfortable future, however challenging it may be. Help someone in need. Listen to someone who disagrees with you. And put the guns down.

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