Bridging the Divide: My Life

Bridging the Divide: My Life

Bridging the Divide: My Life

Bridging the Divide: My Life

Synopsis

"President Lyndon Johnson never understood it. Neither did President Richard Nixon. How could a black man, a Republican no less, be elected to the United States Senate from liberal, Democratic Massachusetts - a state with an African American population of only 2 percent?" "The mystery of Senator Edward Brooke's meteoric rise from Boston lawyer to Massachusetts attorney general to the first popularly elected African American U. S. senator with some of the highest favorable ratings of any Massachusetts politician confounded many of the best political minds of the day. This articulate and charismatic man burst on the national scene in 1966 when he ran for the Senate. His story encompasses the turbulent post-World War II years, from the gains of the civil rights movement, through the riotous 1960s, to the dark days of Watergate, with stories of his relationships with the Kennedys, Martin Luther King Jr., Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and future senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Brooke also speaks candidly of his personal struggles, including his bitter divorce from his first wife and, most recently, his fight against cancer."

Excerpt

As I look back over my life and political career, I am struck by a paradox: that so much has changed, and yet so little. As a young man, I grew up in a highly segregated Washington, D.C., attended segregated schools, and served in a segregated unit of the U.S. Army during World War II. It was beyond my wildest dream that I might go on to become the first African American attorney general of a state—Massachusetts—and then the first popularly elected African American U.S. senator. Yet that is what happened, and it is a dramatic reminder of how America has changed in my lifetime.

Yet in so many ways, little has changed. We have made progress on civil rights, but so much remains undone. I spent many years working for voting rights, but we still see sophisticated efforts, led by white officials, to disenfranchise black voters in local and national elections. We see unemployment rates above 25 percent for black males and more young black men in jail than in college. We see outbreaks of violence—drive-by shootings, for example—that were unknown in black communities when I was growing up. We see levels of inadequate housing and homelessness that grow worse instead of better. The rhetoric of the American dream continues to be far from its reality for millions of our citizens.

As a young man, I was proud to fight in “the good war” against Hitler, but twenty years later I opposed our dubious adventure in Vietnam, just as others and I today oppose our dubious invasion of Iraq. I see young Americans dying—my fellow African Americans disproportionately among them—for goals that are not clear and may not be attainable, and I wonder: “When will we learn?”

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