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Behind the Scenes: Demand for change strong 40 years later

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. Robert Kennedy assassinated 40 years ago this week
  • Campbell Brown sees parallels between 1968 and 2008 in U.S.
  • An unpopular president and war among similarities two election years share
  • Next Article in Politics »

In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events. CNN's Campbell Brown looks at parallels between 1968 and 2008.

Crowds watch the train carrying Sen. Robert Kennedy's casket from New York to Washington on June 8, 1968.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- I spent a few hours looking over video footage and still photos of 40 years ago this weekend, June 1968.

These photos marked a dramatic moment as 2 million people lined the railroad tracks from New York to Washington. They came to watch the funeral train carrying the body of Sen. Robert Kennedy, the Democratic presidential candidate who had been assassinated days earlier.

I am so struck by the pictures from that day, because the enduring power of the moment comes not just from the tragedy itself -- but you can see in the faces all the anxieties, fears, frustrations and dreams behind the demand for profound change.

In America in the late '60s, a generation was grappling with an unpopular war and an unpopular president. The country was impatient; there were massive pressures for social change.

I am struck with the photos of the millions along the tracks, a spontaneous outpouring of grief, uniting Americans of all races and all ages -- rich and poor alike. Video Watch dramatic photos of RFK funeral train »

There are shots of people waving, crying, saluting or just staring. In their way, people wanted to be a part of it. They wanted to say goodbye.

Fast-forward 40 years, and there are so many parallels: an unpopular president, an unpopular war that many are calling "unwinnable." America is filled with anxiety and impatience, yet a new generation is energized.

I get the sense we've reached a turning point, with an election that could change the world.

Kennedy changed the world 40 years ago by going into African-American homes and poor neighborhoods that politicians told him were "not worth it." Now, 40 years later, Kennedy's party has picked an African-American to be its leader.

African-American homes we visited this week look back at 1968, the year the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. also was assassinated, and people say they have "reached the promised land" that King described in a speech he gave the night before he was slain that April.


In 1968, the women's liberation movement was in its nascent stages. Now, dozens of women are in Congress, and Sen. Hillary Clinton has broken through many barriers to become a major candidate for president of the United States.

Certainly my own career path would have been filled with many more obstacles without the relentless efforts of so many women during that era and still of others today.

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