Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not so long ago......Message to Sarah Palin

"Let us dedicate ourself to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago, `to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.'"

This is Aeschylus.....Robert Kennedy's favorite poet.

After watching the ugliness of the Palin/McCain rallies of the last ten days, it was calming and refreshing to hear these words on my way to town on KUSP.

It was from an interview with Max Kennedy.....the ninth child of Ethel and Robert Kennedy.....about his Dad.

There was a time when politics were uplifting.....but then, I am old.

And many of the up-lifters were shot in the course of their up-lifting.

Here is the transcript.....but you can listen to it here.

Interview: From 1998, Maxwell Taylor Kennedy on his father Robert Kennedy

June 4, 2008 from Fresh Air

TERRY GROSS, host: We're remembering Robert Kennedy. He was assassinated 40 years ago. We're going to conclude with an excerpt of an interview I recorded with his son Max on the 30th anniversary of the assassination. Max Kennedy was three when his father was killed. When we spoke, he had just edited a collection of his father's speeches. I asked Max to read what Robert Kennedy said to a crowd in Indianapolis after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Mr. MAXWELL TAYLOR KENNEDY: These words were spoken. I don't know if you know, Terry, but my father was scheduled to speak in Indianapolis that evening; and while he was on the plane, he got word that Dr. King had been shot and was going to die. And this announcement had not been made public, so it fell to my father to give this terrible news to the people of Indianapolis.

And he was scheduled to speak in what was then called the ghetto. And as his escort drove into one of the poorest areas in the city, the police who were escorting him pulled away and refused to drive in.

My father's car continued, but the car carrying his speech followed the police officers. So he found himself that night in this very poor area with no speech.

And he started by saying: "I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens and for people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight."

And at that point, on the recording, there's a terrible gasp from the crowd.

And then my father picks up again and he says: "Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is 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 there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible, you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred and with 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.

"For those 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."

And then he quoted from memory his favorite poet, Aeschylus. And he said: "My favorite poet was Aeschylus.

He wrote:

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."

And he finished that speech by asking the people there to go back to their homes and to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King and also to say a prayer for the United States.

And the remarkable thing is that, that night there were riots across the country. I think there were riots in 186 cities and towns in the United States, and Indianapolis was quiet.

GROSS: Max Kennedy, did that speech give you any clues on dealing with your father's assassination?

Mr. KENNEDY: Yes. I think it definitely did. It's really a remarkable speech. I think that when a violent act occurs like that, the temptation is immediately to respond with hatred and with anger and with a vengeful heart.

And the lesson that my father tried to give is to, you know, the old Christian ethic, which is to try to respond with love.

And, in fact, I took the title of this book from something he said later that same night in that same speech. He said to this incredibly poor audience, who had every right to be unimaginably angry, he went back and he quoted the ancient Greeks again, which I think is a remarkable thing.

And he said:

"Let us dedicate ourself to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago, `to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.'"

And, I mean, in the final analysis, my feeling is that this world could still use a lot more gentleness.

GROSS: Max Kennedy, talking about his father, Robert Kennedy, in an interview recorded 10 years ago. Robert Kennedy was assassinated 40 years ago after declaring victory in the June 4th California Democratic primary.


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