Talk:Robert F. Kennedy

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This is the talk page for discussing improvements to the Robert F. Kennedy page.

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Some of the quotes here are a little sketchy. The long one from "On Mindless Menace of Violence" is a hodge podge of bits of that speech, and it doesn't hang together. Someone with a good eye for these things should give it some love. 10:22, 21 December 2008 (UTC)Reply



Wikiquote no longer allows unsourced quotations, and they are in process of being removed from our pages (see Wikiquote:Limits on quotations); but if you can provide a reliable and precise source for any quote on this list please move it to Robert F. Kennedy. --Antiquary 20:06, 31 March 2009 (UTC)Reply

  • All great questions must be raised by great voices, and the greatest voice is the voice of the people - speaking out - in prose, or painting or poetry or music; speaking out - in homes and halls, streets and farms, courts and cafes - let that voice speak and the stillness you hear will be the gratitude of mankind.
  • I did not lie awake at night worrying about the problems of Negroes.
  • All of us, from the wealthiest to the young children that I have seen in this country, in this year, bloated by starvation — we all share one precious possession, and that is the name American. It is not easy to know what that means. But, in part, to be an American means to have been an outcast and a stranger, to have come from the exiles' country, and to know that he who denies the outcast and the stranger still amongst us, he also denies America.
    • Variation: All of us, from the wealthiest and most powerful of men, to the weakest and hungriest of children, share one precious possession: the name American. (New York, 12-14-67)
  • Another great task is to confront the poverty of satisfaction--a lack of purpose and dignity--that afflicts us all. Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. (Univ of Kansas, 3-18-68)
  • As long as America must choose, that long will there be a need and a place for the Democratic Party. We Democrats can run on our record but we cannot rest on it. We will win if we continue to take the initiative and if we carry the message of hope and action throughout the country. Alexander Smith once said, "A man doesn't plant a tree for himself. He plants it for posterity." Let us continue to plant, and our children shall reap the harvest. That is our destiny as Democrats.
  • As long as men are hungry, and their children uneducated, and their crops destroyed by pestilence, the American Revolution will have a part to play. As long as men are not free — in their lives and in their opinions, their speech and their knowledge — that long will the American Revolution not be finished. (NYC, 6-15-65)
  • But suppose God is black? What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?
  • Democracy is no easy form of government. Few nations have been able to sustain it. For it requires that we take the chances of freedom; that the liberating play of reason be brought to bear on events filled with passion;that dissent be allowed to make its appeal for acceptance; that men chance error in their search for the truth.
  • Each generation makes its own accounting to its children.
  • Fear not the path of truth, for the lack of people walking on it.
  • Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
  • I am not one of those who think that coming in second or third is winning.
  • I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.
  • I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and I have such strong feelings about what must be done.
    • On running for the Presidency
  • I think we can end the divisions within the United States. What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis. And that what has been going on with the United States over the period of that last three years, the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, the divisions - whether it's between blacks and whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups, or in the war in Vietnam - that we can work together. We are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running.

Is this a good source for the above? (The above quote starts at about 8:00)

  • I was the seventh of nine children. When you come from that far down you have to struggle to survive.
  • I'm tired of chasing people.
  • If any man claims the Negro should be content... let him say he would willingly change the color of his skin and go to live in the Negro section of a large city. Then and only then has he a right to such a claim.
  • "If men do not build," asks the poet, "how shall they live?" (12-10-1966)
  • In this entire century the Democratic Party has never been invested with power on the basis of a program which promised to keep things as they were. We have won when we pledged to meet the new challenges of each succeeding year. We have triumphed not in spite of controversy, but because of it; not because we avoided problems, but because we faced them. We have won, not because we bent and diluted our principles, but because we stood fast to the ideals which represent the most noble and generous portion of the American spirit.
  • It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
  • It is more important to be of service than successful.
  • It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task.
  • It is one thing to assure a man the legal right to eat in a restaurant; it is another thing to assure that he can earn the money to eat there.
  • 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.
  • Men without hope, resigned to despair and oppression, do not make revolutions. It is when expectation replaces submission, when despair is touched with the awareness of possibility, that the forces of human desire and the passion for justice are unloosed. (Berkeley, 10-22-1966)
  • My views on birth control are somewhat distorted by the fact that I was seventh of nine children.
  • Nations around the world look to us for the leadership not merely by strength of arms but by strength of our convictions.
  • Nations, like men, often march to the beat of different drummers, and the precise solutions of the United States can neither be dictated nor transplanted to others. What is important is that all nations must march toward a increasing freedom; toward justice for all; toward a society strong and flexible enough to meet the demands of all of its own people, and a world of immense and dizzying change.
  • On this generation of Americans falls the burden of proving to the world that we really mean it when we say all men are created free and are equal before the law. All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.
  • One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.
  • Our attitude toward immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as their talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.
  • Our brave young men are dying in the swamps of Southeast Asia. Which of them might have written a poem? Which of them might have cured cancer? Which of them might have played in a World Series or given us the gift of laughter from the stage or helped build a bridge or a university? Which of them would have taught a child to read? It is our responsibility to let these men live....It is indecent if they die because of the empty vanity of their country. (Vietnam War speech, Calif, 3-24-68)
  • Our gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worth while. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans. (University of Kansas, 3-18-67)
    • See above under Sourced quotes for speech 3-16-68.
  • Parties are instruments of government....The business of parties is not just win elections. It is to govern. And a party cannot govern if it is disunited. (Kings County Democratic dinner Brooklyn, NY, 1965)
  • People are selfish, but they can also be compassionate and generous, and they care about the country. But not when they feel threatened. That's why this is such a crucial time. We can go in either direction. But if we don't make a choice soon, it will be too late to turn things around. I think people are willing to make the right choice. But they need leadership. They're hungry for leadership.
  • People say I am ruthless. I am not ruthless. And if I find the man who is calling me ruthless, I shall destroy him.
    • While on a campaign "whistle stop tour" which reporters had dubbed "The Ruthless Cannonball."
  • Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.
  • Punishment is not prevention. History offers cold comfort to those who think grievance and despair can be subdued by force.
  • Since the days of Greece and Rome when the word "citizen" was a title of honor, we have often seen more emphasis put on the rights of citizenship than on its responsibilities. And today, as never before in the free world, responsibility is the greatest right of citizenship and service is the greatest of freedom's privileges.
  • That which unites us is, must be, stronger than that which divides us. We can concentrate on what unites us, and secure the future for all our children; or we can concentrate on what divides us, and fail our duty through argument and resentment and waste.
  • The advice "bomb them back to the Stone Age" may show that the speaker is already there himself, but it could, if followed, force all of us to join him.
  • The Democratic Party...presents its case on a strong platform and strong candidates, on a proven record of past accomplishment, on the evidence that it alone has the vision and boldness to meet the challenge of leadership of the free world. (Boston 8-2-1960)
  • The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects and new ideas. Rather, it will belong to those who can blend passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the great enterprises and ideals of American society.
  • The future is not a gift: it is an achievement. Every generation helps make its own future. This is the essential challenge of the present.
  • The plight of the cities--their physical decay and human despair that pervades them--is the great internal problem of the American nation, a challenge which must be met. (Buffalo NY, 1-20-67)
  • The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use -- of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.
  • The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country.
  • To say that the future will be different from the present is, to scientists, hopelessly self-evident. I observe regretfully that in politics, however, it can be heresy. It can be denounced as radicalism, or branded as subversion. There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of the comfortable past which, in fact, never existed. (6-8-64)

Here is a source for the above quote, see the bottom of page four:

  • Together, we can make ourselves a nation that spends more on books than on bombs, more on hospitals than the terrible tools of war, more on decent houses than military aircraft.
  • Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.
  • We can master change not though force or fear, but only though the free work of an understanding mind, though an openness to new knowledge and fresh outlooks, which can only strengthen the most fragile and most powerful of human gifts: the gift of reason.
  • We in Government have begun to recognize the critical work which must be done at all levels—local, State and Federal—in ending the pollution of our waters.
  • We know that if one man's rights are denied, the rights of all are endangered. (5-6-1961)
  • We must recognize the full human equality of all our people - before God, before the law, and in the councils of government. We must do this not because it is economically advantageous - although it is; not because the laws of God and man command it - although they do command it; not because people in other lands wish it so. We must do it for the single and fundamental reason that it is the right thing to do.
  • What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet. No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason. Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
  • What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists, is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.
  • 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 it's love, peace, and compassion towards one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white, or whether they be black.
  • Whenever men take the law into their own hands, the loser is the law. And when the law loses, freedom languishes.
  • You knew that what is given or granted can be taken away, that what is begged can be refused; but that what is earned is kept. (12-10-1966)