I had the greatest teacher for social studies in junior high school. Funny, I can't remember his name but he made a big impression on me. We studied current events and what a time to study them. The years were 1967 and 1968. Each student had a subscription to Newsweek and we would study history as it was being made. We ended the school year in June 1967 studying the 6 Day War and went off into the Summer of Love. My mother would drive us over to San Francisco to see the hippies along Haight Asbury. We were too young and innocent to join in and could only watch out the back seat window as we drove by.
School year started again in September and I had the same teacher for history/current events. We would tease him because he was bald. I remember buying a comb, taking all the teeth out and giving it to him as a present to comb his bald head. We were ruthless. We were innocent.
We started studying the 1968 presidential campaign early in the year. Fighting continued to be waged in Vietnam. Each night we would see black and white images of the troops fighting in the jungle and the daily death tolls. Protesting continued across the campuses including our local University.
Early in January 1968, we broke up into teams to campaign for the different candidates and hold a mock election at the end of school year. I remember Johnson, McCarthy, Nixon and Wallace were the main candidates to start. But we also had a group campaigning for Bobby Kennedy even though he had not announced that he was running. My school was mostly minority and everyone wanted to campaign for either Kennedy or McCarthy. It was common to see pictures of JFK in homes. No one wanted to represent Wallace.
In March, Kennedy announced his candidacy and later Johnson left the campaign. Johnson supporters drafted Humphrey to enter the race and replaced Johnson as the leading candidate.
April saw the death of Martin Luther King. It was tense in my neighborhood during this time. Rioting was taking place and you never knew where violence would break out next.
Campaigning headed up in California. The big California primary would take place on June 5th and would be instrumental in the election. The candidates made numerous local appearances. Cesar Chavez aligned with Kennedy. We continued our campaigning for our mock election in class. We would vote at the end of the school year after the primary.
On Tuesday June 5th, Bobby Kennedy won the primary. The unthinkable took place after his victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in LA. He was assassinated.
On Wednesday, we sat in class, stunned. We were so involved the campaign and we wanted Kennedy for President regardless of who we were assigned to campaign for. My teacher wisely decided to go on with the mock election. It was a landslide for Kennedy.
Today is the 40th Anniversary of his assassination. Who knows what would have happened if he lived. Would he have won the nomination? Could he have won the election? What would the nation be today?
The LA Times had a great section on Bobby.
Video - 40 years later: Assassination of RFK
For more see the LA Times sections on the anniversary.