From Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert F. Kennedy to Barack Obama

June 6, 2009


Yesterday, June 5, 2009, at about 6:00 pm as I was getting ready to close up at   CFI Indiana , a lady wearing a straw hat walked in the door.   I greeted her and asked if she would like to hear about our organization and our center.   I then gave her the usual information.  She seemed very interested and "on our page."  I asked if she lived nearby to which she replied that she was from New Mexico and was in Indianapolis to attend a wedding.  

She had decided to take a walk from her hotel room and along the   canal walk where our center is located. I asked if this were her first time in Indianapolis and she said that she had been here once before as a volunteer with the Robert Kennedy campaign.   I then told her about the   Landmark for Peace Memorial .  This memorial is at the site of Robert Kennedy’s speech on April 4, 1968, the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.   Kennedy learned of Dr. King’s death when he arrived at the Indianapolis airport.  He was told that riots had broken out in other cities and he was advised not to make the speech. He refused to cancel his plans. Originally, he intended to make a speech on his presidential aspirations.  Instead, he informed the crowd, who had not heard the news, of the tragic death of Dr. King.  He then gave an impromptu   speech to the inner city crowd about reconciliation between the races. No riots took place in Indianapolis, a fact many attribute to the effect of his speech.  The memorial depicts King and Kennedy reaching out to each other. 

My visitor had not been in Indianapolis at the time of this speech but was interested in seeing the memorial which is a short distance from our center.  So, I offered to drive her there.  Then as we continued to talk, she said that she was in the kitchen at the hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968—only two months later—when Robert Kennedy was   killed. All of a sudden we realized that this was June 5.  What a coincidence!   We both agreed that we had to go see the memorial and so I drove her there. 

In the car and at the memorial, we talked about how the election of Barack Obama seemed to be the culmination of the dream of both King and Kennedy.  We talked of the regressions and damage that needed to be repaired from recent years.  We talked of President Obama’s speech in Cairo the previous day. We both had a new hope for the future with this coming together of dreams embodied in President Obama.  This was one of those inspiring experiences that some might term spiritual—a chance visitor, on an historic day, in the beautiful late afternoon sun in Indianapolis, at the awesome   Landmark for Peace Memorial , and the sharing of feelings and hopes for the future of the world. 

  I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.—    Martin Luther King, Jr., Washington, DC, August 28, 1963  

  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—    Robert F. Kennedy, Indianapolis, IN, April 4, 1968  

  So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.—    President Barack Obama, Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009  

  We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, . . .  "—    President Barack Obama, Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009