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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.’ “—RFK

I was a child and remember vividly to this day the shockingly sad announcement of MLK’s murder via an interruption of television programming for a CBS News Special Report.

I recall so vividly as a First-grader at St. Joseph School in Marion, Iowa. One of the great speeches in American history, by then-Sen. Robert F. Kennedy of NY, former US Attorney General and brother of the late President John F. Kennedy. A Statesman, whose brother JFK was felled by an assassin’s bullet four years prior—reaching out extemporaneously in peace and solidarity, to his aggrieved fellow man, appealing to the better angels of our nature. (Bobby would be assassinated by an Islamist terrorist’s bullet a mere 63 days later.) Despite being warnings that there could be no way to provide a guarantee of any personal security during his outdoor speech in Indianapolis that evening, Bobby scribbled notes while riding in his car to break the tragic news to the assembled crowd. He spoke from the back of a flatbed truck.

STATEMENT ON ASSASSINATION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA, APRIL 4, 1968
(The following text is taken from a news release version of Robert F. Kennedy’s statement.)

Senator Robert F. Kennedy
Indianapolis, Indiana
April 4, 1968
Listen to this speech.

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I have bad news for you, 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 killed tonight
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 a 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 with 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 justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love–a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; 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 make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

Source: Papers of Robert F. Kennedy. Senate Papers. Speeches and Press Releases, Box 4, “4/1/68 – 4/10/68.” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Author: Jon Jacobsen, B.S.B.A., J.D.

Rep. Jon A. Jacobsen, J.D. (R-Council Bluffs), is newly re-elected member of the Iowa Legislature, as Iowa State Representative from District 22 (Pottawattamie County). Jacobsen serves in the House as Vice-Chairman of the Commerce Committee, Vice-Chairman of the Ethics Committee, and in addition is seated on the State Government and Agriculture Appropriations Committees. Jon won his 2016 election by the largest percentage margin of votes in modern district history, engendering a huge voter turnout of nearly 75% of all registered district voters for a mid-term, non-Senate cycle. A married father of three, Jon is a bank senior trust officer/vice president, attorney (Univ. of Iowa Law alumnus), and has won a dozen Iowa Broadcast News Association Awards for Radio programming, including for Political Coverage, Public Affairs, In-Depth Series, Feature, and Overall Best Use of Online Media.

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Rep. Jon A. Jacobsen, J.D. (R-Council Bluffs), is newly re-elected member of the Iowa Legislature, as Iowa State Representative from District 22 (Pottawattamie County). Jacobsen serves in the House as Vice-Chairman of the Commerce Committee, Vice-Chairman of the Ethics Committee, and in addition is seated on the State Government and Agriculture Appropriations Committees. Jon won his 2016 election by the largest percentage margin of votes in modern district history, engendering a huge voter turnout of nearly 75% of all registered district voters for a mid-term, non-Senate cycle. A married father of three, Jon is a bank senior trust officer/vice president, attorney (Univ. of Iowa Law alumnus), and has won a dozen Iowa Broadcast News Association Awards for Radio programming, including for Political Coverage, Public Affairs, In-Depth Series, Feature, and Overall Best Use of Online Media.

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