Robert F. Kennedy – On the Mindless Menace of Violence


It is not a day for politics. I’ve saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land, and every one of our lives. It’s not to concern any one race. Victims of the violence are black and white. Rich and Poor. Young and Old. Famous and Unknown. They are most important of all, human beings, loved and needed. No one can be certain who next will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on, and on, and on, in this country of ours. Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily, whenever we tear the fabric of our lives, which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself, and his children. Whenever we do this, then the whole nation is degraded. Too often we honour swagger, and bluster, and the wielders of force. Too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings. But this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression breeds retaliation and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our souls. But when you teach a man to hate and to fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies that he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom, or your job, or your home, or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens, but as enemies. To be met not with cooperation, but with conquest. To be subjugated and to be mastered. We learn at the last to look at our brothers as aliens. Alienmen with whom we share a city, but not a community. Men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in a common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other. Only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. Our lives on this planet are too short. The work to be done is too great to let the spirit floresh any longer in this land of ours. Of course we cannot benefit with a program, but we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers. That they share with us the same short moment of life. That they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives, in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment that they can. Surely this bound of common fate, surely this bound of common goals, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn at the least to look around at those of us, of our fellow man, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us, and to become in our hearts, Brothers and Countrymen, once again.

1 thought on “Robert F. Kennedy – On the Mindless Menace of Violence

  1. This is a great speech.  The images added from more recent times certainly are worth considering in the context of Robert Kennedy's eloquent, accurate and ultimately hopeful analysis of a problem in our national character.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *