These essays by Robert F. Kennedy grew out of speeches, travel and his experience as Attorney General and a United States Senator. This book was published in 1964 while he was alive, unlike his other books that were not published until after his death.
The office of Attorney General is in many respects the hot corner of political combat. All of the "hard cases” of law enforcement, public administration and governmental services eventually find their way to his desk. lt is impossible, therefore, for an Attorney General not to have taken a position on most of the basic issues of his day. And it is impossible to conceive of a time when all parties interested in the stakes of government could be pleased with a decision, or a non-decision-of the man who holds the office.
As a consequence, few posts in government share such public attention as that of the Attorney General. When the holder of the office is also a member of the innermost governing circle, public attention turns to fascination. Such a situation must be blood-curdling for the incumbent because the fascination is not of the passive and pleasant sort of engagement associated with the best television programs. The Attorney General is taken every way but lightly.
This volume contains twelve essays or "position papers" dealing with those problems with which one such Attorney General was most occupied and preoccupied during his issue-1aden three years and nine months of service. During that time the United States faced many major crises at home and abroad and, for better or worse, met them. In meeting them, the Administration broke many precedents and established a few others. In so doing it gave the American people a political orientation stronger than any witnessed since the Roosevelt One Hundred Days. These essays treat many of those issues with considerable depth and clarity of argument and opinion Characteristically, it is not possible to take this book lightly, whether the subject is wiretapping, the radical right, Berlin. price-fixing, counterinsurgency, the injustices of poverty, or the dereliction of the lawyer's duties in effecting compliance of civil rights statutes. But within the wide range of subject and opinions, formal and informal there is an unmistakable unity. Professor Lowi describes it in his Editor's Foreword: "In all of this there is a characteristic answer that has, perhaps, come to be taken as a Kennedy family trait. This is the confounded optimism that individual will and action can in fact set the world to rights.” The volume opens with a special chapter written by Robert F. Kennedy as a review of his years of public service and a statement of personal beliefs.
The closing sentences of THE PURSUIT OF JUSTICE: … however wise our efforts may be in unconventional diplomacy and unconventional warfare, however sensible our diversity of weapons and strategy, however great our military power and determined our counteroffensive of ideas, there is yet another obstacle to our opening to the future. That is the image of the future we project by our own example. What substance can we provide for the international hopes we can kindle? "Thus we end where we began. We must get our own house in order. We must because it is right. We must because it is might."