- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Vice President Mike Pence paid tribute Tuesday to Democrat Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, calling him a personal inspiration to this day.

Mr. Pence, former governor of Indiana, cited in particular Mr. Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis in April 1968 in which he appealed for calm on the night that civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

“Today marks 50 years since the passing of #RFK—a figure who inspired my youth and inspires me still,” Mr. Pence tweeted. “America will never forget his speech in Indianapolis the night of MLK’s assassination. He spoke words that brought comfort and unity to the American people.”

Mr. Kennedy was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in Indiana on April 4, 1968, when he learned of King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. As dozens of U.S. cities erupted in riots that night, Mr. Kennedy went ahead with impromptu remarks to supporters in a black section of Indianapolis that is often credited as his as his best speech.

To his largely black audience, Mr. Kennedy said, “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,” he said.

Referring to the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, in Dallas, Texas, less than five years earlier, Robert Kennedy said, “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.”

He quoted the Greek poet Aeschylus: “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.”

Mr. Kennedy concluded that night, “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 toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.
“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,” he said. “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.”

Rioting took place in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago and other cities, but Mr. Kennedy’s speech is credited with preventing riots in Indianapolis.

Two months later, he was shot to death by Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian immigrant, in Los Angeles just after winning the California primary.

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