Michael Sandel
Professor of Government, Harvard University

Robert F. Kennedy's Wasted Potential

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Robert Kennedy was poised to redefine American liberalism.

Michael Sandel

Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980. He is the author of Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge University Press), Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 1996), Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics (Harvard University Press, 2005), and The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (Harvard University Press, 2007). His writings have also appeared in such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, and The New York Times. The recipient of three honorary degrees, he has received fellowships from the Carnegie Corporation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Ford Foundation. From 2002 to 2005, he served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics, a national council appointed by the President to examine the ethical implications of new biomedical technologies. A summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University (1975), Sandel received his doctorate from Oxford University (D.Phil.,1981), where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He lives with his wife and two sons in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Question: Who was your greatest influence?

Michael Sandel: Well I think as a child, it was mainly family. And in terms of political figures, the person I admired most was Robert Kennedy, who I think was poised when he was running . . . seeking the Democratic nomination for President in 1968. I think he was poised to put American politics on. . . really on a different footing to redefine American liberalism. And he was tragically assassinated. And so much of the creativity and hope that was associated with Robert Kennedy, in that moment, was shattered and lost. So in terms of political figures, I think he’s the person in my lifetime whom I most admire. And then there were intellectual figures later when I became interested in political philosophy.

Recorded on: 6/12/07


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