Subject: English & Literature
Language: English (U.S.)
Pages: 3
A) In announcing to his audience the assassination earlier that day of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sen. Kennedy had some ethical issues to consider. Please refer to pages 3 and 4 of our book, and chapter 1 more broadly, and any notes or class Power Points, to answer the following: Question A1: In what way do you see and hear Sen. Kennedy acting ethically as a public speaker? In other words, how was his speech the kind of public dialogue our book defines as an "ethical and civil exchange of ideas and opinions among communities about topics that affect the public?" Question A2: Among the members of the audience assembled to hear Sen. Kennedy speak were whites and blacks. In a sense, the "community" of his audience was also two communities. How does Sen. Kennedy address the concerns and feelings of blacks during his speech? How was he, as an ethical speaker, audience centered? He does something very specific to connect with the black members of his audience grieving the death of Dr. King. What is it? Question A3: Sen. Kennedy's speech was praised and cited as the reason there was no rioting in Indianapolis that evening. How might a less ethical speaker have spoken in a way that incited violence or even hate? B) In chapter 3 of our book, Griffin discusses the general and specific purposes to public speeches, and also talks about thesis statements. Consider this information as you answer the following questions: Question B1) Listen to Robert Kennedy's speech and discuss what you think was his general purpose, specific purpose and (though he never says it in so many words) his thesis. C) Sen. Kennedy was a prominent son from a prominent white family endowed with wealth and privilege and power. It has too often been the case that others with this identity (rich, powerful and white) as their master statuses (defined in chapter 4) have been and are ethnocentric in their standpoints. Yet Kennedy's family also knew of prejudice because they came from Irish immigrants to America (not welcomed here at first) and were Catholic, which was a MAJOR point of debate during his brother's (successful) run for the White House in 1960. Consider all this as you answer the following: Question C1) What evidence do you have from this speech about Robert Kennedy's standpoint? How would you describe his standpoint? Is it ethnocentric? Explain. D) Chapter 8 offers ideas for using quotations and even poetry in introductions and conclusions. Answer: Question D1) When/where did Robert Kennedy use poetry and/or quotations in his speech? Were these part of his introduction or his conclusion? Question D2) In your opinion, and based on what we've thus far read and discussed, how effective were these poems/quotations?

Communication Studies

In the speech, Robert Kennedy is being an ethical speaker by offering a eulogy to the fallen Martin Luther King. From his actions, we can see that he is also greatly disturbed by the events. He is also being ethical when he tells the crowd that they have a right to be angry and bitter because it apparent that a white man carried out the killing. However, he implores them to seek justice and peace in the same way that their hero did, through love and compassion. He does not try to downplay the crime. Rather, he successfully attempts to unite the people by sympathizing with them and even using his own grief as a testament to the injustice in the nation.

From the profound speech, we gather that the Senator is speaking to a gathering of both black and white people, although the blacks seem to be in the majority. He addresses the blacks by constantly saying the words, ‘For those of you who are black…’ He is audience centered because he carefully selects the words that he speaks to the people. He improvises his speech to match with the events of the day that have great significance on the people that he is addressing. The speaker also attempts to connect with the black people in the audience by sharing his own grief over the loss of his brother. This way he is equating their loss of a hero, Martin Luther King to the loss of a brother. He feels their pain and understands how they must be feeling because he too has lost someone close.

A less ethical speaker would have played down the fact that a white man assassinated Martin Luther King. The less ethical speaker might also have not eulogized Martin Luther but rather continue with his campaign speech regardless of the sentiments of the crowd. This would have resulted in riots and an outbreak of violence.

The general purpose of Robert Kennedy’s speech on that fateful day was to inform the Indianapolis populace of the death of Martin Luther King. He is heard at the beginning asking his aides if the people congregated there knew about the death of King. He wanted to inform them of the sad event as well as to console them of the inconsolable turn of events. Records show that he sent out some of the volunteers to the crowd in order to console and counsel them so that they may not resort into violence. His specific purpose when delivering the improvised speech was to make the audience aware that anger and bitterness that resulted from the death, would only lead to the polarization of the country. He wanted the people to understand that peace would only reign if they took heed to the words and actions of Martin Luther King. His specific purpose was to avoid any further bloodshed by imploring the people to address the injustice in the country through compassion and acts of love, just as Martin Luther King attempted to do. The thesis of the speech was peace and love for all humankind in spite of race and racial injustice and mistreatment.

From this speech, there is no evidence to suggest that Senator Kennedy was ethnocentric. His speech seems to indicate that he believes in the equality of men regardless of their race. He does not try to hide the fact that white men might have been involved in the shooting and killing of Martin Luther King. He actually tells the crowd that the evidence points to there being white influence in the grave incident. He tells the crowd that they can be anguished by the news, filled with hatred and bitterness for white people. However, he reminds them that he too lost someone dear to him, his brother, John Kennedy who was also assassinated by a white man. He chose not to be filled with hatred and bitterness against white people and he hoped that his audience would do the same. 

Robert Kennedy also believed in justice for all of Americans whether they are black or white. He notes that injustice such as the killing of Martin Luther King will continue. However, he implores all of the American people to have a sense of justice towards those who are still suffering in the nation. His view is that America can only grow stronger if all the communities come together and work towards a common goal. Polarization of the country between the blacks and the whites will only serve to destroy the country.

In his speech, Robert Kennedy used poetry to illustrate the dire need for all Americans to pull together regardless of race after the death of Martin King Jr. He quoted the Greek playwright Aeschylus at the middle of his speech. The words of the poem were meant to hearten the audience in the aftermath of this great national tragedy. He wanted them to be consoled by the fact that pain came to all human beings, but somehow through the grace of God, pain would lead to enlightenment and wisdom. Quoting the poem was very instrumental in delivering the message to his intended audience. Unlike many other states at the time, the residents of Indianapolis did not riot once the news of the death of Martin Luther King was announced.