In 1968, John F. Kennedy's brother, Robert F. Kennedy, announced his campaign for the presidency.
"By the time he was assassinated in early June, Robert Kennedy seemed to be on a huge winning trajectory with a very strong likelihood that he would win the White House," Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn told Boston Public Radio on Wednesday.
Kennedy's campaign was based entirely on the bedrock of unity, Koehn said. She believes 2020 Democratic presidential candidates should take a tip from Kennedy's 1968 playbook.
"Kennedy understood that if you're going to make progressive serious change, and win an elected office when the country is on fire, leading isn't just about what we do about an issue, but about how we plan to bring the country together," she said.
Koehn explained the key lessons which future presidential hopefuls can learn from Kennedy.
"Unity matters. Bobby Kennedy always understood that there has always been an enormous number of unifying issues around working class white Americans and other minority Americans," she said. "He built that bridge in 82 days on the campaign trail in the spring of 1968."
Kennedy was an inclusive populist, Koehn added. The rise of right-winged populism around the world has led some liberals to misinterpret populism as a whole, she said.
"Populism doesn't mean racism. Bobby Kennedy, like Martin Luther King Jr., had a patriotic populism platform for America. In our time, we've really adopted a whole bunch of seductive falsehoods like 'Populism must be bigoted,' and 'The way forward is to keep poking the bear of division,'" she said.
Koehn is an historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration. Her latest book is "Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times."