Robert F. Kennedy
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
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
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
Robert F. Kennedy's Notes
on Civil Rights Speech
State Archives - Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Investigation Records in
the California archives.
Fitzgerald Kennedy Library
F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights
Francis Kennedy, United States Senator