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. Kennedy:
‘Speech after Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.’
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 towards 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 to make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.