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Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee while speaking on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel. Within a few hours Robert F. Kennedy arrived at an airport in Indiana and was informed Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed. Despite being told that it was too risky by his advisors but RFK insisted. Right before he stepped up to the podium set on top of a flatbed truck trailer he turned to an advisor and asked if “they knew about MLK” (referring to the people he was about to talk to). He then stepped up on the trailer in inner-city Indiana and gave one of the most famous speeches of all time. Robert F. Kennedy was supposed to be doing a campaign speech in inner-city Indianapolis, Indiana on the back of a flatbed trailer. He was speaking to a crowd of mostly inner-city blacks. The crowd had not known and was never alerted to the fact that MLK had been assassinated. This made the news harder and more shocking to give. The first thing Robert F. Kennedy said was “Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some -- some very sad news for all of you -- Could you lower those signs, please?” He said this to get the attention of the crowd. This also alerted the crowd to the fact that he would not be giving a campaign speech. He asks the crowd to lower their signs out of respect and so all the people in the crowd could see him. He then begins the speech itself with the line “I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news 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 was killed tonight in Memphis,
Tennessee.” After he says this the crowd erupts with screams and cries. This shows that this greatly upset the crowd is with the news. Then the crowd falls silent as he begins to speak again. This shows how the crowd respects RFK and wants to hear what he has to say. Despite being mostly made up on the fly RFK suited this speech for the crowd. He was short and to the point. He even said he would be in the first line. He also tried to keep the crowd calm while he speaks. He doesn’t try to “rowl” up the crowd. He attempts to keep them calm and listening. This kept the crowd inline and quiet. This speech accomplishes many things. It alerts the crowd to the fact that MLK was assassinated likely by white men but he also adds that he had a family member also killed by a white man. This shows that he feels for the crowd and what happened to MLK. Another Major thing it accomplishes is that RFK gets the point across to the crowd that they shouldn’t be violent but they should understand and spread compassion and love, not hate and violence. He says the should be like MLK, this is evident with the line “We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization -- black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.” That whole paragraph states that if they want to respect MLK they have to continue his effort. RFK used a poem in his speech that seemed very appropriate for the time. He says the poem is by his favorite poet Aeschylus.“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.” It means that they will never forget the pain of the death of MLK or the events that occurred that day. But, wisdom and knowledge will come. It brings his point that
through MLK’s death strength and knowledge will shine through. This poem is very important to soothe the pain of the crowd.
I chose this picture because it shows RFK as he is giving his speech. He is obviously emotionally distraught. Through the whole speech he keeps eye contact with the audience. He doesn’t look at his notes either. This shows how he respected MLK. Kennedy also speaks in a fairly informal tone. He “felt” with the crowd and tried to connect with them the best he could. Over all this speech is very effective and conveys his point properly. He alerts the people to the fact that MLK has been killed. He also accomplishes keeping the crowd in line and preventing them from being violent. He speech was very effective and accomplished his goals.
Writers Memo By: Elijah M. Purington
Robert F. Kennedy’s “On the Death of Martin Luther King” speech was successful. It conveyed his point quite well and it also kept the crowd calm. That is why my thesis was that Robert F. Kennedy is a good speaker and really achieved connecting with and talking to his audience. I think I achieved proving my thesis very well. I gave quotes and arguments toward my beliefs of how he successfully put forth the points. I also think my explanation of the poem was good and got to the point. I also think it pointed out all it needed to and achieved what I had set in my mind. If I had to chose something to change or do better it would be the overall flow of the paper and how the information was conveyed. I also think now that I read through it a few hours after I finished the first part is that I realized my point isn’t put as clear across as I thought I had. The essay in general was not very easy to write. The only part that flowed smoothly for me was the analysis of the poem. I tend to be able to write analysis’s on poetry better than writing based on speeches or books. The other problem was that the paper came together in pieces. I couldn’t really come up with this in one sitting. I want the reader to look for my description and how this speech really was effective. I want the reader to agree with my opinion on RFK’s speech and that he did push the people to not riot or fight but support his requests. I have always agreed with RFK’s opinion and his push for civil rights. My audience is anyone who wants to hear what I have to say. I don’t really care who reads it or not just as long as it puts my points and beliefs forward.
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/rfkonmlkdeath.html, the link for the speech text http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9yX0Zv1tZU, the link for the video