Editor's Note: An excellent opportunity to pause to consider powerful legacies and the necessity of continuing to work for peace and equality happens each April 4. Details in the following press release.
This year's annual Dr. King/Sen. Kennedy commemoration on April 4th will include recognition awards to six female Hoosiers for their professional accomplishments and positive influence in local, state and federal government, the judiciary and sports including: Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman; Maggie Lewis, President, Indianapolis City-County Council; Karen Freeman-Wilson, Mayor, City of Gary; Judge Marilyn Moores, Marion Superior Court, Juvenile Court presiding judge; Justice Tanya Walton Pratt, United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana; and Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever, WNBA.
Various speakers, including Indianapolis Mayor
Greg Ballard, will commemorate the 44rd anniversary
of Sen. Robert Kennedy's impromptu, historic speech in Indianapolis on the
evening that Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.
The annual King/Kennedy program will take place on Wednesday, April 4th at 5:00 p.m. at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, 1702 N. Broadway Street.There will be speakers, presentations and musical performances honoring both men who dedicated their lives to peace and civil rights for all Americans.
A special Trail Blazer Award will be also be given out to a special honoree in recognition of their decades of public and community service to the State of Indiana. Two character actors from the Indiana Historical Society's"You are There - 1968: Robert F. Kennedy Speaks"exhibit will also participate, representing actual audience members who learned of Dr. King's death through the announcement by Sen. Kennedy. An audio/visual presentation of his historic, four minute and fifty-seven second speech will take place at 6:01 p.m. Portions of the speech are included in a granite wall memorial at Sen. Kennedy's grave site in Arlington National Cemetery.
Historical Background on Sen. Kennedy's 1968 Speech
Forty-four years ago on April 4, 1968, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was tragically assassinated in Memphis. By fate or coincidence, on that very night, Indianapolis became forever linked to two visionary leaders - Dr.Kingand presidential hopeful, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who would also be assassinated a short two months later.
While major cities across the United State rioted, Indianapolis mourned, prayed and remained peaceful, which many attribute to the presence of Robert Kennedy. He was on the Indiana campaign trail in hopes of garnering the state's support for a presidential bid when he learned of Dr.King's death.
Despite warnings about his own personal safety and the fear of possible violence in the wake of the assassination, Sen. Kennedy stood firm that he would still speak to supporters who were gathered for a scheduled campaign rally at 17th and Broadway. It was Robert Kennedy who shared the news of Dr.King's death to a confused Indianapolis audience in what would become a critical moment in U.S. history.
In the ensuing days, it was reported that riots took place in 76 cities throughout the country, resulting in 46 people killed, 2000 injured and 28,000 jailed. Many historians and community leaders credit Kennedy's six-minute, unrehearsed speech of peace and non-violence as a major factor in Indianapolis avoiding the chaos and violence that took place across the nation. Many call it the greatest extemporaneous speech ever made and portions of the speech are included on a graveside memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
On Wednesday, April 4, 2012, community leaders and citizens will gather as they do each year at Dr.MartinLutherKing, Jr. Park, near the Landmark for Peace sculpture dedicated toKingand Kennedy in 1994 to commemorate this fateful day and honor both men. It is the hope of the dozens of volunteers that plan this annual event - ranging from grassroots organizations to community centers to those in government and the private sector - that this day serve as a reminder to all that political divisiveness and violence are not the way to resolve the many challenges that face our community and nation.
Sen. Robert F. Kennedy - April 4, 1968 - Indianapolis-Speech Transcript
Ladies and Gentlemen - I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because...
I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is thatMartinLutherKingwas shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.
MartinLutherKingdedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's 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 evidently is that there were white people who were responsible - you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.
We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization - black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, asMartinLutherKingdid, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also 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 get beyond these rather difficult times.
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, whether they be white or whether they be black.
(Interrupted by applause)
So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family ofMartinLutherKing, yeah 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. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's 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 that abide in our land.
(Interrupted by applause)
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. Thank you very much. (Applause)