Robert F. Kennedy's speech on Martin Luther King


This study guide will help you analyze Robert F. Kennedy’s statement on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In addition to help for your rhetorical analysis, you can find a summary of the text and ideas for putting it into perspective

Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) was an American politician who served as the 64th United States Attorney General and as US Senator. His brother was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968, during his Democratic presidential nomination campaign.


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Direct Address

Kennedy opens his speech with a direct address towards the black audience and towards all American citizens: “I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens”. This shows that he believes King’s death is significant not only for the black community but for America as a whole. 

Then, Kennedy uses direct address when he specifically targets his black audience: “for those of you who are black…”. In two instances, directly addressing the black audience helps Kennedy show them that he empathizes with their loss. 

Last but not least, Kennedy identifies himself with the larger audience by using the plural “we”: 

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 (…) We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization (…) Or we can make an effort

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Robert F. Kennedy's speech on Martin Luther King

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