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Robert F. Kennedy's Speech on the Death of Martin Luther King

Updated on December 29, 2011

I was 11 when Robert F. Kennedy died. Even at that young age I felt a connection to him. I didn't know much about him at that time and I was living in the United Kingdom. It was only later that I came to appreciate his contribution to history. Who knows what would have happened had he not been murdered on June 6, 1968?

In my opinion, the greatest speech he gave that year was the one he gave on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr's murder, just two months before his own death.

RFK and MLK reaching out to one another. In Indiana.
RFK and MLK reaching out to one another. In Indiana.

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Indianapolis, Indiana

He was scheduled to appear at a rally in Indianapolis, Indiana on the night of April 4th. After the murder of Dr. King, Kennedy's police escort refused to go into the predominantly black area saying they could not vouch for his safety. Indianapolis was one of the few cities that didn't erupt into riots and violence that evening. The speech he gave was written on the plane on the way to Indianapolis on the back of an envelope. The following is an excerpt from that speech:

"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...

...Let us 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 us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much."

RFK's Speech on April 4, 1968

Aftermath - 2008

Well, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. has come and gone. The 2008 presidential candidates certainly exploited it on April 4th. Barack Obama was in Fort Wayne, Indiana where Ethel Kennedy stumped for him on the spot of Kennedy's speech, Hilary Clinton was somewhere in Indiana where she gave a seemingly heartfelt memory of where she was when she heard King had been shot, and John McCain appeared on the spot where Dr. King was shot. I have to wonder if the candidates really cared more that it was the anniversary or that it was an opportunity to exploit the voters.


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  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 6 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Thanks Sharyn :) I am very interested in the Kennedy family also but someone RFK touches me more than any of them did. I have a large collection of biographies and books by RFK.

  • Sharyn's Slant profile image

    Sharon Smith 6 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA


    I love anything that has to do with the Kennedy's. I believe this is an awesome first hub. Really enjoyed it! Thanks,


  • Howard S. profile image

    Howard S. 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas, and Asia

    Ooops, sorry UW. This hub wasn't the one that caused a broken link in my RFK hub, because this is still linked there. It must have been another one--like on Beatlemania or something.

  • profile image

    LEWJ 8 years ago

    I appreciate this article because it brings back memories of my life at that time and because it reminds me of how the full significance of such events are not discerned until long after. In my hometown it was just about the proverbial "last day of school". I recall a photo of RFK on the front cover of a Chicago Suntimes or Tribune that was lying on the living room couch on the day of his assassination.

    The suddenness and rush of information attached to the event was a bit much for a school kid. But I did comprehend some of the impact of it.

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Thanks for commenting, tools. I agree with his words too. Amazing that they were written off the cuff.

  • tools951 profile image

    tools951 8 years ago from California

    Great video about Robert kennedy speech. I totally agree with his words.

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    It was my first hub :)

  • Julie-Ann Amos profile image

    Julie-Ann Amos 8 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

    Interesting. I missed this when you first published it.

  • Sally's Trove profile image

    Sherri 9 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

    I remember that day. I was 20 years old.

    When I was 15, I had gone to Washington with my family to wait in line to pay my respects to his brother. I wore a gray wool suit, a black beret, a camel hair coat, white gloves, stockings, and high heeled shoes. In the bitter cold.

    Bobby was the living hope that remained.

    Thank you for reminding us.

  • Lucky Dog profile image

    Lucky Dog 9 years ago

    He was an amazing orator with the ability to move people to act, think, and feel. If you saw the movie "Bobby" the very end when he is speaking is the most powerful part. I wish that our leaders would move away from the rigid scripted speeches of today and back to the raw, powerful speeches like those Bobby was able to give!

  • profile image

    dafla 9 years ago

    I was only 16 when Robert Kennedy was killed, but I remember it distinctly. I'm so happy that someone else does as well. Everyone talks about his brother's death, but no one really talks about his. 1968 was a bad year. MLK and RFK both killed. A great loss for America.

  • vrajavala profile image

    vrajavala 9 years ago from Port St. Lucie

    I wrote an article concerning the assassination of RFK

    Hope it doesn't happen.

  • Angela Harris profile image

    Angela Harris 9 years ago from Around the USA

    Really, Gamergirl? Interesting.

    This is a great hub tribute. I really would have liked to have seen what JKF could have accomplished if he had been in this world longer.

  • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

    Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

    Robert Kennedy was a great man and would have brought a lot of good to the world.

    Great HUB regards Zsuzsy

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 9 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    That's really interesting gamergirl. Really :)

  • gamergirl profile image

    Kiz 9 years ago from Antioch, TN

    The Kennedy family is related to my family!

    >.> Granted, the Kennedy family are cousins to the Dodge family, who are cousins of my grandmother's family.. but still!!

  • Wendy08 profile image

    Wendy08 9 years ago

    good hub! =) keep going like this and your score will be at a 100 in no time at all!