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Robert F. Kennedy

1925-1968

U.S. Senator New York (D)

U.S. Attorney General 1961 - 1964

U.S. Senator and Attorney General, brother of President John F. Kennedy, born in Brookline, Massachusetts. Kennedy served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He received a B.A. degree from Harvard University and an LL.B. degree from the University of Virginia. His political accomplishments include chief counsel (1955-1957) of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee, active enforcement of civil rights laws as attorney general, and candidate for US President. <br><br> 

Kennedy, in 1968, had won major primaries in Indiana, Nebraska, and California but was shot dead by the Jordanian Sirhan Bishara Sirhan June 6, 1968.

Robert F. Kennedy Speech on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Death

April 4, 1968, Indianapolis, Indiana

I have bad news for you, 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 killed tonight.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.

In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black -- considering the evidence their evidently is that there were white people who were responsible -- you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization -- black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.

Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I 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 go beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: "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 or lawlessness; but 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 they be black.

So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, 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 of which I spoke.

We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we've had difficult times in the past; 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 want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.

Let us dedicate to 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 us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

 

           

Robert F. Kennedy's Notes on Civil Rights Speech

 

Research Links

 

California State Archives - Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Investigation Records in the California archives.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library

Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights

Robert Francis Kennedy, United States Senator

Text Courtesy of the FBI - Freedom of Information Act

Background investigation of Robert F. Kennedy conducted in 1951 in connection with his employment as an attorney with the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. He was appointed Attorney General in 1961 and served as a United States Senator 1965-68.

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Part 8a

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Part 9b


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