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Robert F. Kennedy: His Words

June 5, 2009

Much has been written about the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

June 6th marked the 41st anniversary of his death by assassination in Los Angeles after winning the California Democratic presidential primary two days earlier on June 4, 1968.

This is a tribute to him.

In 1964 Robert F. Kennedy introduced a memorial motion picture (they weren’t called videos in those days) about the life of his brother President John F. Kennedy to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.

Here were his remarks:

When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine, that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun

"President Kennedy once said that we have the capacity to make this the best generation in the history of mankind or make it the last. If we do our duty, if we meet our obligations and our responsibilities in our local cities and towns and farms, in our states and in the country as a whole, then this country is going to be the best generation in the history of mankind.

"And I think that we must dedicate ourselves, as he frequently did to all of you when he spoke, when he quoted from Robert Frost, when he said that which he applied to himself but which we could apply to all of us as individuals, that ‘the woods are lovely dark, and deep/But I have promises to keep,/And miles to go before I sleep,/And miles to go before I sleep.’"

Atlantic City, August 28, 1964


In April of 1968 while flying to Indianapolis, Robert Kennedy heard about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. At the Indianapolis airport, Senator Kennedy delivered the following extemporaneous eulogy:

"Dr. King dedicated himself to justice and love between his fellow human beings. He gave his life for that principle and it is up to those who are here - his fellow citizens and public officials - to carry out that dream, to try to end the divisions that exist so deeply in our country and to remove the stain of bloodshed from our land.

"Those of you who are black can be filled with bitterness, with hatred and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization - black amongst black, white amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.

"I had a member of my family killed. He was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States - an effort to understand.

"We can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace violence with compassion and with love. What we need in the United States is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our own country, whether they be white or they be black.

"Aeschylus wrote: ‘In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’

"Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of men and make gentle the life of the world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people."

Indianapolis, April 4, 1968


On June 8, 1968, Senator Edward M. Kennedy delivered the eulogy to his slain brother at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. He concluded, saying the following:

"My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. He should be remembered simply as a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

"Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today pray that what he was to us, and what he wished for others, will someday come to pass for all the world.

"As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: Some men see things as they are and say, why. I dream things that never were and say, why not."

New York City, June 8, 1968