Tuesday, April 4, 2006

In the evening April four...

Martin Luther King was killed on this day in 1968 in Memphis.

Robert Kennedy was campaigning in Indianapolis on that day and gave an extemporaneous speech to the crowd. Here is an excerpt.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust 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 these rather difficult times.

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.

Indianapolis was one of the few large cities without major rioting and unrest on the day of this tragedy. There is a historical marker at 17th and Broadway where Robert Kennedy gave his speech.


Blogger John B. said...

I have often thought that taken in the context of the moment, this was one of the great speeches in American history (and for that matter, one of the greatest pleas for peace in history).

RFK knew the pain of losing a family member to assassination, the shock, the anger, the sadness. It is apparent in his voice, he almost sounds tired when he utters these words, as if the whole emotion surrounding the JFK killing had again flashed through his mind.

April 04, 2006  
Blogger torporific said...

I would say so too. I had first heard of the speech when I was in junior high visiting Washington DC. I think some of the words from the speech are on his tombstone at Arlington or if not on a marker nearby.

April 04, 2006  
Blogger Smartypants said...

I love that speech. I'm glad you posted it.

April 04, 2006  
Blogger indygirl said...


April 04, 2006  
Blogger John Good said...

Where are the men of RFK's caliber today? They are sorely needed.

April 04, 2006  
Anonymous MarCo Guy said...

More people should visit the memorial. Ground for the memorial was broken in 1994 by then-President Bill Clinton. The memorial was made from guns melted down from a weapons amnesty program. The Indiana Pacers organization was a major contributor and coordinator.

Also, I believe a line from the speech is on RFK's grave headstone.

April 04, 2006  
Anonymous Rachel said...

I was in DC two weeks ago, and went to Arlington. RFK's grave is a simple small white slab with his name on it, with a white cross above it. Facing the grave is a low pool of water with a wall behind it, with three panels of text -- the two on the right contain an excerpt from that speech, which is credited as "Indianapolis 1968" but doesn't give any context. I wish more people (especially the teenagers) would have turned around from their gravestone Kodak moment and taken a few minutes to read that text.

Westminster Abbey in London has statues of ten 20th-century martyrs above the western door; one of them is Martin Luther King. I think he's about the most appropriate American representative they could have chosen.

I haven't been to the MLK/RFK memorial in Indy yet. Sigh, indeed.

April 05, 2006  

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