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Ladies and Gentlemen of the American Public: Aeschylus once said, “There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart's controls. There is advantage in the wisdom won from pain.” These are not such times, and our pain is too great. Fellow citizens for unity. I appear on this television before you as a President in these so grave of martial times. I want you to know, as I’ve been appointed your leader, that I am thinking of this country and its survival. I am thinking of this country as a man and as a fellow citizen. My intention here today is to dispel rumors and provide information as to what is happening. As the appointed leader, this is my responsibility. My heart is weeping in these desperate times for the loss of the many of my friends who have died and are dying right now in the streets of these Disunited States. My name is Robert Francis Kennedy. Some of you have called me Bobby. I have a wife named Ethel. I have eleven children who I love dearly. Kathleen, Joseph, Robert Jr., David, Mary Courtney, Michael, Mary Kerry, Christopher, Matthew, Douglas and Rory. I tell you this in hope that you will see who I am as a person and not as a President, or your leader, or even as a Kennedy. I do not want you to see me far away from you. I want you to see me as a father, as a husband, as a brother, and as a friend. I am Bobby Kennedy and these times make me afraid. A few years ago, before the dissonance began, I spoke about the mindless menace of violence. I spoke that it was not a day for politics. I spoke that violence breeds violence. Well, my fellow Americans, many months have past since then and violence has become our great landscape. Dark forces have divided our great democracy. As I speak, our people are in the streets causing egregious acts of heinous violence on their own brothers. I plead with you to stop these bombings of terror. I beg of you to not forget peace. I ask of you to remember what it means to say that we are the United States. As your commander in chief, the person who has been asked to lead, I offer an olive branch. We are not a government of tyranny. We are not masters of your fate. I would not be proud to lead a tyrannical state, or an anarchical state, or a fascist state. My brother fought the second world war to stop fascism, to stand against a holocaust of the Judaic people and to see that people survive. I don’t speak today to
order you. I don’t speak today to command you. I don’t speak today to reprimand you. I speak to express my love for you. I speak in order to understand why you are angry. I know these days have been confusing for us all. The enemy is not a very clear enemy. I include myself in this poor assessment of the situation, and I apologize that our leadership has not been very forthcoming with information. The Committee built in the aftermath of what has become known as the The Red Spring has been using language that denies the very essence of our troubles. It hearkens away from the very core of what is happening to our country. Phrases like “civil decay” or “civil disunity” are euphemisms that do not freely admit what we are all experiencing. Denying war denies a possible peace and impedes the progress toward it. Civil War is what is on all of our tongues and it is my duty, as President, to be the one to speak the words. This only belies the truth, and I do not want to lie anymore to my sons, to my daughters, to my wife, and to you America, my brothers and sisters. Our conflict is not specifically black, white, young or old. It may have began as a black and white thing. It may have begun as a young or old thing. It may even be a rich and poor thing. Regardless of how it was engendered, strife is a fast moving train that we, as collective Americans, have set in motion because of our own social differences, and now it is our collective responsibility to help end these troubles. So, I ask you, fellow countrymen. To recognize the poison relations of our times. To form a bond of common faith in humanity. I want you to see that life as a United States is not only possible again, but probable. In our hearts, I believe many of you are good. I believe many of you have families, like me, and want to see them survive. I believe the cleansing of our society starts here, in our hearts, where there is not swagger and bluster and institutional violence. Help me, America. Let us help our brothers survive this struggle, so we can see a day where every horizon reflects a common hope and every city of this great country shares a common peace.
Robert F. Kennedy, April 13th, 1971