In an emotional and poetic speech that evokes his own family's painful history, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy tells an audience in Indianapolis that Martin Luther King, Jr.has been assassinated.
Robert F. Kennedy Speaks on the Day of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassination
Senator ROBERT F. KENNEDY: Ladies and gentlemen, I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening because I have some very sad news for all of you.
Could you lower those signs please? I have some very sad news for all of you and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. For this difficult day, and this difficult time for the United States it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of nation we are. And what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black and considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people responsible you can be filled with bitterness and with hatred and a desire for revenge.
We can move in that direction as a country and greater polarization, black people amongst blacks and white amongst whites filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land with an effort to understand compassion and love. For those of you who are black, and are tempted to feel with, be filled with hatred and distrust of the injustice of such an act against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling.
I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man, but we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond or go beyond these rather difficult times. My favorite poem, my favorite poet was Aeschylus, he once wrote, “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.
So I still ask you tonight, to return home to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country which all of us love, a prayer for understanding and that compassion that which I spoke, he can do well in this country, we will have difficult times, we have had difficult times in the past, and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence, it is not the end of lawlessness, it is not the end of disorder, but the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life and wants justice for all human beings who abide in our land. And what--dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago, to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let’s dedicate ourselves to that. Let’s say a prayer to our country and for our people.