The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America by Thurston Clarke

The definitive account of Robert Kennedy’s exhilarating and tragic 1968 campaign for president–a revelatory history that is especially resonant now After John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy–formerly Jack’s no-holds-barred political warrior–almost lost hope. He was haunted by his brother’s murder, and by the nation’s seeming inabilities to solve its problems of race, poverty, and the war in Vietnam. Bobby sensed the country’s pain, and when he announced that he was running for president, the country united behind his hopes. Over the action-packed eighty-two days of his campaign, Americans were inspired by Kennedy’s promise to lead them toward a better time. And after an assassin’s bullet stopped this last great stirring public figure of the 1960s, crowds lined up along the country’s railroad tracks to say goodbye to Bobby. With new research, interviews, and an intimate sense of Kennedy, Thurston Clarke provides an absorbing historical narrative that goes right to the heart of America’s deepest despairs–and most fiercely held dreams–and tells us more than we had understood before about this complicated man and the heightened personal, racial, political, and national dramas of his times.

The Last Campaign (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) ( (AbeBooks)

I can’t believe it’s been fifteen years since this book first came out and I bought it and devoured it. At the time, it was the 40th anniversary of Robert F Kennedy’s groundbreaking and ultimately tragic run for the presidency. I decided to revisit the book, because a lot has changed in our society in the past 15 years, yet some things remain the same.

Clarke details RFK’s campaign for the presidency and doesn’t necessarily rehash Kennedy’s whole life. He just hits upon key information without a lot of backstory. I was glad of that, because it seems many Kennedy biographies focus too much on what came before, concentrating on Joe Kennedy and then eventually getting to his children.

I can’t imagine what it was like living in 1968 America. I’ve asked my husband, who was a young teen in those days, and he said he had much hope for Kennedy’s campaign. He knew that if Kennedy could get elected, the war in Vietnam would end, that civil rights would become more important, that poverty in America would be addressed. Instead, the country wound up with a corrupt politician who took his sweet time ending the war, and never addressed the issues Kennedy brought to the forefront of the ’68 campaign.

As good as this book is at looking at those short months when change seemed possible, there’s bitter sadness knowing how it all ended, much like reading books about RFK’s brother, John. Clarke shows how invigorating and groundbreaking Robert Kennedy’s campaign was, completely different than the 1960 election that he ran for his brother, because the country had changed so much in those eight short years. And I couldn’t help reflect upon how different our political landscape has changed in the past 15 years, and yet it also hasn’t changed much since 1968 at the same time.

For more reviews, visit

Never miss a post! Subscribe to my email list below.

I’m also on PinterestInstagramTwitter and Tumblr. Check it out!

Join our Facebook page Bargain Sleuth Book Reviews or join our book group here.

This post contains affiliate links. That means I may earn a few pennies if you purchase any books mentioned in this post, at no additional cost to you. Monies earned offset the costs of web hosting.