Maxine Wyman

In 1968, I was a 15-year-old high school student working part-time in the Washington, D.C. office of Senator Joe Clark of Pennsylvania when Senator Robert Kennedy was killed. I was devastated. The civil rights movement and the passage of the Civil Rights Bill had changed my family's life in the last few years. My father, who was in the building trades, had joined the union, and was earning a decent wage and had steady work. The third hero of my time had been cut down and the promising future for which they and my parents worked appeared to be fading. Coming to work in the Senate kept me going, and gave some meaning to this great sorrow that sat like a lump in my chest.

This particular afternoon, I desperately wanted to see what was going on at the Democratic National Convention, but our office did not have a television. A senior staff member in Clark's office suggested I go down the hall to Senator Kennedy's office. So I did. Sad and shy, I asked the receptionist if her office had a TV I could watch. She replied that the only TV was in the Senator's office. I peeked in the open doorway and there was Senator Kennedy talking with Pierre Sallenger. I started to back away. No, the receptionist insisted, go on in. So, timidly I crept over the threshold and whispered my request. Senator Kennedy gave me a smile, a soda and a chair -- right in front of the television. I stayed for more than an hour.

I cannot tell you how much that acknowledgment of my grief meant to me, a young black girl from D.C.'s far northeast community. The Senator's warmth and kindness in the midst of his own sorrow and burdens set an example I have never forgotten.

Thank you for sharing the great heart of this great man with your country. May God bless you and your family.