NPR's Morning Edition had this story about an incident that has been on my mind lately.
Robert Kennedy: Delivering News of King's Death
It was supposed to be a routine campaign stop. In a poor section of Indianapolis, 40 years ago Friday, a crowd had waited an hour to hear the presidential candidate speak. The candidate, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, had been warned not to go by the city's police chief.
As his car entered the neighborhood, his police escort left him. Once there, he stood in the back of a flatbed truck. He turned to an aide and asked, "Do they know about Martin Luther King?"
They didn't, and it was left to Kennedy to tell them that King had been shot and killed that night in Memphis, Tenn. The crowd gasped in horror.
Kennedy spoke of King's dedication to "love and to justice between fellow human beings," adding that "he died in the cause of that effort."
And Kennedy sought to heal the racial wounds that were certain to follow by referring to the death of his own brother, President John F. Kennedy.
"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," he said. "I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man."
"My favorite poem, my — my favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote:
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forgetfalls drop by drop upon the heart,until, in our own despair,against our will,comes wisdomthrough 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."
Two months later, Robert Kennedy himself was felled by an assassin's bullet.
You really should listen to the audio of both the Morning Edition story and of the speech itself. It is a mere five minutes and 20 seconds, however, forty years later listening to Bobby Kennedy speak moves me beyond words.