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Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Ma., speaks Wednesday, June 6, 2018, to a crowd at Arlington National Cemetery, gathered there to remember the life of his grandfather, the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Ma., speaks Wednesday, June 6, 2018, to a crowd at Arlington National Cemetery, gathered there to remember the life of his grandfather, the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Ma., speaks Wednesday, June 6, 2018, to a crowd at Arlington National Cemetery, gathered there to remember the life of his grandfather, the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Ma., speaks Wednesday, June 6, 2018, to a crowd at Arlington National Cemetery, gathered there to remember the life of his grandfather, the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, speaks Wednesday, June 6, 2018, at Arlington National Cemetery during a ceremony honoring her father on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, speaks Wednesday, June 6, 2018, at Arlington National Cemetery during a ceremony honoring her father on the 50th anniversary of his death. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes )

A combined group of singers from the American University Gospel and Eastern High School Choirs sing during a Wednesday, June 6, 2018, ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death.

A combined group of singers from the American University Gospel and Eastern High School Choirs sing during a Wednesday, June 6, 2018, ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death. ( Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes )

Country music star Kenny Chesney performs "This Land is Your Land" during a Wednesday, June 6, 2018, ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery honoring the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Country music star Kenny Chesney performs "This Land is Your Land" during a Wednesday, June 6, 2018, ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery honoring the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death. ( Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes )

The United States Army Band "Pershing's Own" adds a military touch to the commemoration ceremony held Wednesday, June 6, 2018, at Arlington National Cemetery for the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death.

The United States Army Band "Pershing's Own" adds a military touch to the commemoration ceremony held Wednesday, June 6, 2018, at Arlington National Cemetery for the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death. ( Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes )

Former President Bill Clinton waves to the crowd at a Wednesday, June 6, 2018, ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death. 
To his right is Kennedy's daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Former President Bill Clinton waves to the crowd at a Wednesday, June 6, 2018, ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the late Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death. To his right is Kennedy's daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. ( Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes )

ARLINGTON, Va. — A swell of visitors, most far too young to remember Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, came to Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday to pay their respects on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

Kennedy was shot June 5, 1968, soon after a speech marking his victory in the California Democratic primary for president, and died the next day. He was 42.

For such a noted thread in the tapestry of American politics, it was an understated ceremony. Country music star Kenny Chesney gave a quiet performance of “This Land is Your Land,” and 19 speakers ranged from former President Bill Clinton to Kennedy’s daughter and grandson.

Noted civil rights activist and longtime friend of the Kennedy family Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., also spoke, quoting from RFK’s speech about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Some recited passages from Kennedy’s other speeches, touching on matters that continue to be relevant today: racial equality, American unity, liberty. Several thousand people filled the outdoor auditorium at the cemetery, where Kennedy is buried near his brothers, John and Ted.

Kennedy’s daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and grandson, Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., peppered their speeches with personal anecdotes from RFK’s life.

Joe Kennedy III gave perhaps the most moving tribute to his grandfather. While he too spoke about the impact Kennedy had on American politics, he humanized a man who has become, for many, just another face in a history book.

“Today we also remember a father who delighted in the laughter of his children, long walks with his dogs, football with his family, the smile of his wife,” Kennedy’s grandson said. “He wasn’t radical or revolutionary. He was human.”

darnell.michael@stripes.com Twitter: @MikeSDarnell

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