“The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed…
Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can. Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.”
From one of the most tender American politicians of the twentieth-century, Robert F. Kennedy, speaking on “The Mindless Menace of Violence” the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Put it on your shelf: RFK’s Collected Speeches.
These words should be penetrating and immediate to all of us, regardless of what we feel about the Trayvon Martin killing and the subsequent trial and verdict.
“It is my conviction that nothing enduring can be built on violence. The only safe way to overcome an enemy is to make of that enemy a friend.”—Mahatma Gandhi
Martin Luther King, who in 1959 traveled to India to learn about nonviolent resistance from the disciples of Gandhi, made an observation that’s been with me since I read it several weeks ago:
The great irony of our age is that we have guided missiles, and misguided men.
Another terrible irony: two months after giving this elevated speech, Robert Kennedy was killed in the same way as King — shot, struck down by the mindless menace of violence. But he did leave us this affirming incitement to press on, a principle with which he had to wrestle his fair share:
“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”
Below are some of my favorite pictures of Robert Kennedy and his family.
Read Robert’s impromptu eulogy for Martin Luther King, Jr., which was given the night King was killed and a day before this speech.
Read Ted Kennedy’s eulogy for Robert — one of the most hauntingly beautiful speeches I’ve ever heard.