|Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaking on Monday afternoon. Courtesy of Kennedy 24 campaign.|
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. declared himself an independent candidate in the 2024 race for the White House in a widely-anticipated event on Monday afternoon in Philadelphia.
Kennedy had been running in the Democratic party primary against President Joe Biden, since May, appearing in events all over the country, including one in Brooklyn in August that drew 800 people. In the past month, his bid faced many obstacles in the nominating contests by the DNC, which were part of why he made this decision.
After all, the Kennedy dynasty has been associated with the Democratic party, as his uncle was President John F. Kennedy, and his father, Robert F. Kennedy was Senator from New York who was running for the Presidency in 1968 before he was slain.
Kennedy is known for his his career in activism, starting with his work as a young attorney for the environmental nonprofit RiverKeeper in 1985, as he prosecuted polluters, ensured fresh drinking water throughout the country, and preserved fishing as a valuable livelihood. He won numerous cases against corporate giants, including a court order against ExxonMobil mandating they clean up tens of millions of gallons of oil that spilled in Brooklyn.
Building on the success of RiverKeeper's local model, Kennedy co-founded the WaterKeeper Alliance and served as its president for 21 years. It became the world's largest nonprofit devoted to clean water, and it now protects 2.7 million miles of waterways with over a million volunteers in the U.S. and 46 countries around the world.
Kennedy's campaign now has the slogan, Declare Your Independence, and here is a sampling of his the speech he delivered:
Today, as corrupt powers have overtaken our government, the ranks of the dispossessed have swelled beyond Indigenous and Black people to include tens of millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck in financial desperation. The dispossessed also include the legions of the chronically ill, the addicted, the depressed, and the 80% of the country that can no longer afford a normal middle-class lifestyle.
A rising tide of discontent is swamping our country.
There is danger in this discontent, yet there is also promise.
The danger is that demagogues will hijack it toward fascism. Or, that our rulers will divert it into an external enemy to start yet another war.
But the biggest danger, which we've seen unfold in real-time, is that we will direct our discontent at each other. As Abraham Lincoln observed, quoting Jesus Christ, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." A polarized nation is easy for corrupt powers to manipulate and strip of its wealth, its freedoms, and its dignity.
Those are the dangers, so, what is the promise? The promise is of reunion. We are told that our nation is hopelessly divided. But I've found it less divided than it seems.
The most hateful voices are usually the loudest. But quietly, Americans are looking with disgust at the vitriol, the name-calling, and the venom. They want it to end. They want us to get along.
The loud, hateful controversies obscure vast areas of agreement.
Most of us agree that we should take care of our veterans at home and seek peace abroad. We agree that teachers deserve decent salaries, and that housing should be affordable, and that corporations should pay their fair share.
We agree that we want a clean environment and wholesome communities for our kids.
Yet these universal yearnings stand alongside a broad agreement that our nation has lost its way.
Americans are weary of the culture war, the phony slogans of politicians, and the partisan blame game that has us all at each other's throats.
And people suspect that the divisions are deliberately orchestrated, and that getting us to hate each other is part of the scam.
And they're fed up with being fooled, and they are ready to take back their power.
There is no other explanation for the enthusiasm I see every day in the people flocking to our campaign. Sometimes it gives me goosebumps. Their minds may tell them the situation is hopeless, that the elites are too entrenched, that the corruption is too deep. But their hearts say otherwise. I know that because I meet scores of people every day, even those in the hardest circumstances, who haven't given up on America...
For 40 years, Americans across the country have fortified me with their courage and idealism.
But this year, I have witnessed an upwelling of optimism such as I have never seen in my lifetime.
Optimism is not the same as denial. We have to acknowledge the truth. We face a decaying infrastructure, and record levels of addiction, depression, and chronic disease. We face entrenched political corruption and an inequality of wealth not seen in a hundred years.
But the good news is that finally, people are fed up. Something is stirring that says, 'It doesn't have to be this way.'
People stop me everywhere I go, at airports and hotels and on the street, and remind me that this country is ready for a history-making change. They are ready to reclaim their freedom and independence.
And that is why I am here today. I am here to declare myself as an independent candidate for President of the United States.
And that's not all. I am here to join you to make a new Declaration of Independence for our entire nation.
We declare independence from the corporations that have hijacked our government.
We declare independence from Wall Street, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Ag, the military contractors, and their lobbyists.
We declare independence from the mercenary media that fortifies corporate orthodoxies, and urges us to hate our neighbors and fear our friends.
We declare independence from the cynical elites who betray our hope and amplify our divisions.
And finally, we declare independence from the two political parties and the corrupt interests that dominate them, and the entire rigged system of rancor and rage, corruption and lies, that has turned government officials into indentured servants of their corporate bosses.
We declare independence from these corrupting powers because they are incompatible with the inalienable rights or life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that our original Declaration of Independence invoked in 1776.
How can we guard life when for-profit corporations have captured the public agencies that are supposed to protect us?
How can we enjoy liberty when a surveillance state seeks to hide the truth and quash dissent?
And how can we pursue happiness when debt and low wages imprison so many of our nation's families?
And so I have come here to declare our independence from the tyranny of corruption which robs us of affordable lives, belief in our future, and respect for each other.
But to do that, I must first declare my own independence. Independence from the Democratic party and independence from all parties.
I haven't made this decision lightly. It is painful for me to let go of the party of my uncles, my father, of my grandfather and of both my great-grandfathers - John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, Boston's first Irish Catholic mayor, and Patrick Kennedy, a Boston ward boss, who together, launched my family's political dynasty more than a century ago.
But MY sacrifice is nothing compared to the risk our founding fathers took when they signed the Declaration of Independence 247 years ago right over there.
THEY knew that if their revolution failed, every last one of them would be hanged. They chose to place everything on the line.
When John Adams put his pen down after adding his signature to the Declaration, he turned to those present and said, "Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, from this day on, I'm with my country."
I make that same pledge today, so that I may stand before you as every leader should - free of partisan allegiance and backroom deals - a servant only to my conscience, to my creator, and to you.
Today, we are turning a new page in American politics.
There HAVE been independent candidates before. But this time is different. This time, the Independent is going to win.
Three-fourths of Americans believe President Biden is too old to govern effectively. President Trump faces multiple civil and criminal trials. Both have favorability ratings deep in negative territory. That is what two-party politics has given us. And that is why we need to pry loose the hammerlock of corrupt power over Washington D.C. and make this nation ours again.
But there is a sacrifice that everyone, including myself, has to make if we are to unite America.
We will have to surrender a kind of political addiction that is at the root of our divisions. It is the addiction to taking sides. Our nation's renewal begins with listening to each other again - with respect.
Only then will we be able to step outside our tired stuck debates.
We will ask the questions no one thought to ask. We will discover solutions that were right in front of our face. We will listen, not just to the other side, but to those apart from any side.
In a two-sided conflict, both parties have a kind of mutual dependency. Each depends on the other to define themselves as the good guys, in contrast to the other side, who are, of course, the bad guys. Well, if you are Team Good, then you'll do anything, however unscrupulous, to defeat Team Evil.
And that's why we have seen both parties sacrifice their own values - and the canons of democracy - in an all-out battle for power.
In the war against Evil, any means justifies the end. The result is that you become evil yourself. The child obsessed with hating a parent becomes that parent.
As I've surrendered my attachment to taking sides, I've been able to listen with new ears to people with whom I disagree, and see solutions that would otherwise have been invisible.
I'll give you an example. Six months ago, I thought that an open border was a humanitarian policy, and that sealing the border meant you were a xenophobe or perhaps even a racist. I was wrong.
How did I learn I was wrong?
It wasn't just that I listened to the other side. It was when I actually visited the border and listened to the people who weren't on either side.
My views changed as I spoke to border patrol officers, to local officials, to aid workers, and to the migrants themselves.
I saw that no one party has a monopoly on wisdom, and no simplistic narrative contains the whole truth.
My promise to you as President is that on every issue, I will listen to stakeholders from every side and beyond any side.