Searching for America's Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope

Searching for America's Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope

Searching for America's Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope

Searching for America's Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope

Excerpt

On August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed, with great fanfare, a law radically restricting the aid America offers to poor families with children — a measure colloquially known as [welfare reform.] The event was the culmination of a backlash that had been growing for three decades, and reflected an even deeper change in Americans' sense of communal responsibility and what it means to be an American. The long-building anger at some of our most powerless people had finally boiled over — ironically, on the watch of a Democratic president.

President Clinton buttressed his action with the words of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. [Work,] RFK had said, [is the meaning of what this country is all about. We need it as individuals. We need to sense it in our fellow citizens. And we need it as a society and as a people.]

I was then serving President Clinton as an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, and had been Kennedy's legislative assistant. I knew both men well. I knew what Kennedy envisioned was a national investment to assure that people actually had jobs. I knew that he also wanted to assure a decent measure of help for people unable to find work, and especially for their . . .

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