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The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  2,033 ratings  ·  174 reviews
The definitive account of Robert Kennedy’s exhilarating and tragic 1968 campaign for president—a revelatory history that is especially resonant now

After John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy—formerly Jack’s no-holds-barred political warrior—almost lost hope. He was haunted by his brother’s murder, and by the nation’s seeming inabilities to solve its problems of r
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 2008)
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Reading this was like watching the Titanic leave Southampton in April of 1912. You know exactly what's going to transpire yet you just cannot pull your gaze away. So it was for Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the spring of 1968 when he enters the race for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States.

This is five years after the nadir of the "New Frontier" and four years after Lyndon Johnson embroiled us in the eternal quagmire of what was Vietnam. January, 1968 produced one of
Vivian Valvano
Bobby Kennedy was one of my idols and heroes. I bought this book as soon as it was published, but just got up the courage to read it recently. It strengthens and cements my beliefs that my beloved country would be a very different, and better, place had Bobby become President. Moreover, it elucidates for me, as much as a book possibly can, that he was a tremendously gifted and sincere human being with more empathy and more desire for justice than anyone else that I have known of in the world of ...more
Wonderfully detailed book about Robert Kennedy's tragic 1968 campaign. While Clarke's book describes a Robert Kennedy who is fun, intelligent, sympathetic to minorities' causes (particularly African-Americans' fight for civil rights), as well as occasionally cold and solitary, his book nonetheless sometimes veers towards hero-worshiping. I have nothing against Robert Kennedy, in fact I count him amongst my personal heroes, however, despite my favoritism for Kennedy when I started reading this bo ...more
If RFK wasn't already my hero, he would be after reading this book. This really was the last "true" campaign and there has never been another 82 days like this in our history. It's a compelling and fascinating journey made all the more poignant by the inevitable ending. Robert Kennedy is one of history's great what "ifs" in life. He brought us hope, and still brings us hope today, but the yearning is still there, and I think it always will be. America missed out on something great-a politician l ...more
This was a great book. Because I am old enough to remember what it was like that awful Spring in 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered and then Bobby Kennedy, I really appreciated having these events put into context. RFK's final 3 months were really amazing and, of course, beyond heartbreaking. I was only 9 years but I was enamoured with the man. I was living in San Diego on June 5, 1968 and was listening to the radio, following closely the primary results. I feel asleep with it on, kn ...more
Stephen Terrell
Robert F. Kennedy was my first real life hero. As I read this book and moved toward that horrible June 4 evening in Los Angeles, I desperately wanted to somehow reach out and stop RFK from walking toward that kitchen where Sirhan Sirhan was waiting.

Robert Kennedy was so different as a candidate - as a hope for America in a time of domestic turmoil that those who were not living then can not truly understand. Yet RFK could reach across the gap -- touching blacks and George Wallace blue collar sup
First, I must say that I am a fan of narrowly scoped biographies. So much more can be learned by focusing on a small, rather specific, event or period of time as opposed to trying to capture a man or woman's entire life into one book.

By focusing on the 82 days between Bobby Kennedy's announcement that he would run for President and the night of his assassination, Clarke was able to show the ebbs and flows of Kennedy's final days. In this book, we are able to see development of campaign. Through
This novel beautifully chronicled the last 82 days of Robert Kennedy’s troubled life. Robert Kennedy, the brother of our 35th President John F. Kennedy was a major political face, and ran against his brother’s successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Robert’s hatred for LBJ fueled his highest ambition, to fulfill his brother’s unfinished work in the White House, and Thurman Clarke tells his audiences Robert’s journey to the high office. On his 82 day journey, Robert’s popularity erupted among the black ...more
Mr. Neumann
I'd like to write a lengthier review of this book later, after I have an opportunity to meet with my friends to discuss this at our book club (my first ever...apparently I'm all growns up).

Suffice it to say, I did not love this book. In fact, I didn't even like it that much. I felt that most of the book bordered on hero worship, to the point that I could not form an objective opinion about Kennedy's storied '68 campaign.

That said, I ultimately gave "The Last Campaign" three stars rather than 5
John Daly
Robert Kennedy's campaign for the presidency lasted 82 days that included some of the most traumatic moments of the sixties.

Thurston Clarke in this short book examines those 82 days of 1968 campaign and it captivates you instantly and makes you long to hope that maybe it could have been RFK and not Nixon standing on west side of the Capital facing the mall taking the oath on January 20, 1969.

One of the most powerful moments of the book is the descriptions of the events of the night of April 4th
This book started out as one of the saddest books I have ever read. I choked back tears a couple times. I have always admired Robert Kennedy in a sort of "on a pedestal" way. This book showed his human side, faults and all. I realize that while he was deeply compasionate about social injustice, he was also a politican. Campaigns, especially those for the highest office in the land, often are laced with the darkest politics, and his campaign was no exception. He was stubborn to a fault and willin ...more
Kristy Miller
If I would give this book 10 stars if I could. This book captures a moment in time, a moment in politics, a moment in history, when America was at a fork in the road; with the war in Vietnam, with race relations, with the economic disparity.
Bobby Kennedy had been known as a ruthless political operative, and the strong-arm of his brother's White House. When he was elected as the senator from New York, he began to differentiate himself from his brother's policies, and pursuing ones that he held d
Bobby Kennedy is one of my personal and political heroes. I think if he had lived and been elected President, as I think he would have, he had the potential to be a truly great President, one who really cared about the poor man, the black man, the Native Americans on the reservation. He believed in reconciliation and redemption, in accepting collective guilt and collective responsibility. I think America would have been a better place for a Bobby Kennedy Presidency, I really do. And it's the ult ...more
Mario Adame
Very quick read with accounts that will interest your heart and mind. RFK was a one of a kind leader who touches the lives of millions at that time and even today. The author accurately captures RFKs leadership in times when courage was deeply needed.
Excellent, excellent book. It was great to get a picture of what the campaign was like, what it meant, and how he got to the place where he wanted to run it. For being such a legendary political celebrity, he really just wanted to help people and fix things, and hated having to play the political and media game to do so (and he often refused to play). The descriptions of his interactions with crowds, and of his trips to the reservations and poor areas where he'd just sit with poor, filthy, starv ...more
Jun 17, 2015 Cullen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history fans, politics buffs
Since I was born in the 80's I didn't know much about RFK other than that he was JFK's brother and was assassinated while running for President in 1968. This book did a great job of explaining why he was special and why people loved him so much.

It does not require that you be a political junkie or a child of the 60's - only that you are interested in US history.
About the person. RFK was not a great orator but a passionate orator. And it was just with this passion that he won crowds. He said what he felt. He was a man of principles and felt about the poor and powerless. This incident tells you about his courage and the kind of person he was. It was because of his speech that there were no riots in Indianapolis after Martin Luther's assassination. He took a great risk of getting into a black ghetto and in a 6 minute speech convinced them that violence ca ...more
Bryan Craig
Reviewers have charged Clarke with hero worship regarding his subject RFK. I can understand that, but I think the book is more even handed though. Clarke presents his flaws and RFK's preferred method of campaigning: to the crowds. This methods was effective, but not all the time. I think RFK could have been a more well rounded campaigner if he was more comfortable with TV and working the suburbs.

One thing sticks with me: the power of RFK's message and conviction, a politician that really said wa
This is an essential read if you're a Kennedy junkie like me, it provides the most detailed insight into RFK's 1968 campaign. The first chapter gives a tear jerking account of Bobby's funeral, and why he managed to inspire so many Americans. The book details each primary state and gives a really good summary of Kennedy's entire camapaign. It's a good read for any politics student as it details the actual demographics of the primaries and shows that RFK was able to actually do very well in 'racis ...more
What an amazing politician he was. This book made me depressed that there don't seem to be any politicians today who will fight for what they believe in, and what is morally right, rather than strategizing (Adjustment Bureau, anyone?) and saying what they think will win them the next election. But in the end, it did make me hopeful that it possible. It happened once with Robert Kennedy, it could happen again.
This campaign, and how he kept calling the country back to ethics and principles of justice, amazing. It’s mind-boggling to think how things might have been if he’d survived.
Alan Livingston
Great subject, but the writing’s topic focus remained quite repetitive throughout. It was a fascinating three months back then, and this book gives a play-by-play from inside this “movement” that targeted what the nation thirsted for so badly. Was Bobby Kennedy the “answer”, and would he have been a great President or not? Maybe not – we’ll never know. But in that spring of 1968, the guy that before was always known as “JFK’s little brother” grew up and articulated so much of what it seemed so m ...more
Poverty. Consider the last time a mainstream Presidential candidate made the issue of poverty an important part of their campaign. Consider then for a moment how Robert F. Kennedy made it the centerpiece of his campaign in 1968. A campaign that gave hope to millions of Americans in a time where things seemed hopeless and then consider that hope being destroyed by an assassin’s bullet on June 4, 1968 in a hotel in California. The Last Campaign is an apt title for a book that describes the journey ...more
Like Robert Kennedy's actual campaign, this book about same is brief. Frank. Poignant and even sometimes painful. All because it is sincere.

It's detailed enough to be historical, but poetic and at times ironic enough to be considered at times, art.

Yet it lacks the pretentiousness of some historical books that attempt to be art. It rarely expresses its own position, the author keeping himself out of the way for much of the presentation. At the same time it is much more personal and alive than a m
An incredibly moving, detailed, and overall sad read because you know there is no happy ending to come.

Is this a piece written by an author that, like many of the reporters that covered the 68 RFK campaign, is slightly smitten with Bobby Kennedy? Absolutely. That shouldn't stop you from reading it. It's a good book, well researched and honest. It leaves you feeling like you want to hop in a Delorian and travel back to '68 for just one happy day mid-campaign so you too can say you were there. Yo
Aug 20, 2008 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
I had never read or studied RFK before; thus, I was absolutely amazed that a politician would ever say things so strongly about the poor, and Native Americans as he did (which as the book points out, the situation has not change since 1968; indeed, if anything it has become worse). I believe today's politicians only say what will get them elected or say what their constituents are already endorsing. To read of RFK speaking so passionately and speaking of "sacrifice" as if it is appropriate, as s ...more
Thurston Clarke's book on Robert Kennedy provides a narrative account of the 82 days that he ran for President until he was killed at the ambassador hotel in early June 1968. It is a concise and well written account that goes over what happened on the campaign trail showing the triumphs and the struggles of RFK's campaign. From the rallies in Oakland to woo the African American vote to the triumphs in Indiana with the backlash vote that wanted "law and order" you are presented with a person who ...more
C. B. Miller
1968: a time it was...

Released at a time that corresponds with both the 40th anniversary of RFK's run and the last presidential election, it make for an engaging read. As Kennedy stated he didn't "...lightly dismiss the dangers and the difficulties...but these are not ordinary times and this is not an ordinary election." True words of the turbulent era. Vietnam was in its 3rd year as far as direct involvement of US combat troops, racial tension and riots continued at home and Americans were look

Heather Steed
I started reading this with really no knowledge of the events of 1968. But I really enjoyed this read; I frequently found myself reminded of a handful of people whose political opinions I really value because of how balanced, diplomatic, and rational they are. I found myself wondering (and asking those people I was reminded of) how different our country would be if Kennedy had lived to be elected.

Several things struck me most about the politics of Bobby Kennedy:

He was sincere. I truly believe th
I mostly picked up this book because I attended a rally for RFK when he visited Milwaukee in the spring of 1968 during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. I don't remember much about it except the crazed atmosphere of extreme adulation, and just how focused he seemed.

Thurston Clarke's thesis is that Robert Kennedy represented the best hope for a politics of reconciliation and compassion, shared responsibility and service to country, at a time when the country was reeling fro
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Thurston Clarke has written eleven widely acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, including three New York Times Notable Books. His 'Pearl Harbor Ghosts' was the basis for a CBS documentary, and his bestselling 'Lost Hero', a biography of Raoul Wallenberg, was made into an award-winning NBC miniseries.

Clarke's articles have appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and
More about Thurston Clarke...
JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and The Emergence of a Great President Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech That Changed America Pearl Harbor Ghosts: The Legacy of December 7, 1941 Equator: A Journey Searching for Paradise: A Grand Tour of the World's Unspoiled Islands

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“He had used it as the epigram to his 1967 book 'To Seek a Newer World,' and it expressed two pillars of his faith: that everyone has a duty to alleviate suffering, and that no one can live a fully happy life while surrounded by the unaddressed misery of others.” 1 likes
“Unlike most politicians who follow their audience, (Robert) Kennedy tried to lead his.” 0 likes
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