“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…
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote:
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.
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 and lawlessness; but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country…
So I shall ask you tonight to return home… 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 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.”
Robert F. Kennedy’s impromptu speech upon hearing of the shooting of Martin Luther King, Jr on April 4th, 1968. You can find this along with the best of Robert Kennedy in RFK: Collected Speeches (edited by Edwin Guthman).
These words are for the victims and the families of the victims of today’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Here is Robert giving the speech: