Months before he was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, was asked by David Frost in a live television interview which historical character he admired most. The unexpected question left Kennedy scrambling.
“Ah, let’s see,” he said, looking away from Frost and wringing his hands. “Well, most of the ones that I really think about just rapidly are Americans.”
He paused for a few seconds and, as if to buy himself time, threw out the name of Abraham Lincoln. Clearly dissatisfied with the obviousness of that choice, he paused again before venturing, without conviction, “Uh, I think Theodore Roosevelt I admire a great deal.”
Kennedy was still thinking. Frost, who knew his business, sat patiently as his guest shifted uncomfortably in his chair and the question hung in the air while an expectant audience looked on.
The candidate continued to search his mind until finally he found what he was looking for. He perked up and leaned forward, face shining, to say: "I admire still a lot in Herbert Hoover’s career. I thought that his earlier career and what he did working in the mines and his career in China what he did for Europe after the First World War and what he did during the 1950s, the Hoover Commission of the United States, were just marvellous contributions to our country and to his fellow man. Of course, the difficulties that he had in the nineteen twenties as part of the cabinet and while he was president of the United States, but when you consider his overall career there were some marvellous things that he did."
From Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times by Kenneth Whyte, Knopf, New York, October 2017.