[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Mr. President:
On behalf of Mrs. Kennedy, her children, the parents and sisters of
Robert Kennedy, I want to express what we feel to those who mourn with
us today in this Cathedral and around the world.
We loved him as a brother, and as a father, and as a son. From his parents,
and from his older brothers and sisters -- Joe and Kathleen and Jack
-- he received an inspiration which he passed on to all of us. He gave
us strength in time of trouble, wisdom in time of uncertainty, and sharing
in time of happiness. He will always be by our side.
Love is not an easy feeling to put into words. Nor is loyalty, or trust,
or joy. But he was all of these. He loved life completely and he lived
A few years back, Robert Kennedy wrote some words about his own father
which expresses [sic] the way we in his family
felt about him. He said of what his father meant to him, and I quote:
it really all adds up to is love -- not love as it is described with such
facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and
respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was
an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something
unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit
And he continued,
Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a
social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention. There were
people who were poor and needed help. And we have a responsibility to them
and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own,
we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the
most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others
who are less well off.
That is what Robert Kennedy was given. What he leaves to us is what
he said, what he did, and what he stood for. A speech he made to the young
people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966 sums it up the
best, and I would like to read it now:
There is discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and
starvation. Governments repress their people; millions are trapped in poverty
while the nation grows rich and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere.
These are differing evils, but they are the common works of man. They reflect
the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion,
our lack of sensibility towards the suffering of our fellows. But we can
perhaps remember -- even 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 we do -- nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose
and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.
Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of
common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to
look at those around us as fellow men. And surely we can begin to work a little
harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers
and countrymen once again. The answer is to rely on youth -- not a time of life
but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a
predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the
love of ease. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will
not yield to the obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. They cannot be moved by
those who cling to a present that is already dying, who prefer the illusion of
security to the excitement and danger that come with even the most peaceful
These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness
to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion
of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history
of this generation.
Each time a man
stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes
out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and
crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and
daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest
walls of oppression and resistance.
Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure
of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a
rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is
the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world
that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this
generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find
themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.
For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy
and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly
spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is
not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in
times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the
creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will
ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge
ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world
society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that
future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control.
It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the
irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to
reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in
that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event,
it is the only way we can live.
That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us.
My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he
was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw
wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war
and tried to stop it.
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that
what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass
for all the world.
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched
and who sought to touch him:
Some men see things as they are and say why.
I dream things that never were and say why not.