Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Funeral Eulogy by Robert F. Kennedy
"For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred ...
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....
Martin Luther King, the American civil rights leader and winner of the Nobel
Prize for Peace, was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He rose to prominence in the
civil rights movement of the 1950s, led the famous March on Washington in 1963,
and the March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. A brilliant orator and
writer, whose insistence upon nonviolence in the Gandhian tradition accounted
for the success of the movement, Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in
Memphis, Tennessee, by a white man.
On the day King was assassinated, Sen. Robert Kennedy was campaigning for the
presidency in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was on his way to a campaign rally in a
black section of the city when he heard that King had been killed. His aides
strongly urged him not to go to the rally, that he would be endangering his
life. But Kennedy insisted, and he stood upon the back of a flatbed truck and
delivered the following extemporaneous eulogy. Less than two months later,
Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles.
I have bad news for you, for all our fellow citizens, and people who love peace
all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed
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 there
evidently is that there were white people who were responsible - you can be
filled with bitterness, with hatred, and 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 that 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 injustice towards those who still suffer within our country, whether
they be white or they be black...
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 disorder.
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
ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of
man and to make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our
Watch Video Clip: Robert F. Kennedy's Statement on Dr. King's
Death - Montage