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President Kennedy gallery

“Tragedy without reason? But was there anything in the universe without reason? The question echoed: ‘Why, God?’ For an agnostic the murder of John Kennedy seemed one more expression of the ultimate fortuity of things. But for those who believed in a universe infused by the Almighty with pattern and purpose—as the Kennedys did—Dallas brought on a philosophical as well as an emotional crisis. Robert Kennedy in particular had to come to terms with his brother’s death before he could truly resume his own existence.

In these dark weeks and months, on solitary walks across wintry fields, in long reverie at his desk in the Department of Justice, in the late afternoon before the fire in Jacqueline Kennedy’s Georgetown drawing room, in his reading—now more intense than ever before, as if each next page might contain the essential clue—he was struggling with that fundamental perplexity: whether there was, after all, any sense to the universe. His faith had taught him there was. His experience now raised the searching and terrible doubt. If it were a universe of pattern, what divine purpose had the murder of a beloved brother served? An old Irish ballad haunted him.

Sheep without a shepherd;
When the snow shuts out the sky—
Oh, why did you leave us, Owen?
Why did you die?

He scrawled on a yellow sheet:

The innocent suffer—how can that be possible and God be just.


All things are to be examined & called into question—
There are no limits set to thought.”

Robert Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Ted Kennedy at the Funeral for John F. Kennedy


From chapter 26 (“Corridors of Grief”) of Robert Kennedy and His Times by Arthur Schlesinger.