Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr.

Of Kennedys and Kings: Remembering 1968

* On the 40th anniversary of the MLK Assassination last year, our founding editor New Frontier wrote this remembrance of the tragic events which took place this week in 1968. We wanted to share it with you again today.

MLK and RFK

RFK and MLK

MARCH 31-APRIL 4, 1968 – A WEEK THAT CHANGED AMERICA

“Even 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.”

 

– Aeschylus, as quoted by Robert Kennedy upon the death of MLK

Φ

40 years ago this week brought us to a critical turning point in the American experience.

By March of `68, with the peace movement rapidly growing and anti-war sentiment at its’ peak, it seemed that things might finally be turning around for the better. Robert F. Kennedy had just entered the presidential race opposing the war. There was a brewing sense of hope that a Kennedy presidency would be restored five years after the death of JFK.

Little did America suspect that the era known as “Camelot” was not to rise again. On the contrary, it was about to come to an abrupt, ironic, tragic, and bloody end.

Over the course of just five short days, we watched in shock as President Lyndon B. Johnson stepped aside and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was brutally murdered. We saw race riots erupt in the streets of our cities, and wondered if the whole world just might burn. We heard one of the most stirring pleas for peace and unity ever spoken by any politician when Robert F. Kennedy delivered the news of Dr. King’s assassination in the heart of an Indianapolis ghetto.

Looking back with the hindsight of history, we can now fully comprehend the importance of this pivotal moment. Those who lived through it will never be able to shake the memory. For for the ones who weren’t old enough to remember or had not been born yet, the events of that week still fascinate, even when experienced secondhand through books or grainy old news footage.

It’s a tale of stunning upsets, unimaginable horrors and stark contrasts: of presidents and peace, of war and love, of confusion and clarity, of Kennedys and Kings. Of pain which cannot forget – even after forty years.

LBJ GETS OUT OF THE WAY

The first jolt came on March 31, President Lyndon B. Johnson stunned the nation with the surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election to the presidency in 1968.

Appearing on TV at 9 p.m. that evening, LBJ first announced that he was taking steps to limit the war in Vietnam. He outlined his plan at some length; then, in what seemed almost an afterthought, dropped this unexpected bombshell:

“Fifty-two months and 10 days ago, in a moment of tragedy and trauma, the duties of this office fell upon me. I asked then for your help and God’s, that we might continue America on its course, binding up our wounds, healing our history, moving forward in new unity, to clear the American agenda and to keep the American commitment for all of our people.

United we have kept that commitment. United we have enlarged that commitment.

Through all time to come, I think America will be a stronger nation, a more just society, and a land of greater opportunity and fulfillment because of what we have all done together in these years of unparalleled achievement.

Our reward will come in the life of freedom, peace, and hope that our children will enjoy through ages ahead.

What we won when all of our people united just must not now be lost in suspicion, distrust, selfishness, and politics among any of our people.

Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year.

With America’s sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office–the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”

LBJ's address to the nation, March 31, 1968

President Johnson addresses the nation on television – March 31, 1968 

At that exact moment, Kennedy (who had just announced his intention to run for the presidency two weeks earlier) was coming in for a landing at La Guardia airport. The New York State Democratic chairman, John Burns, raced aboard the plane and breathlessly told Kennedy, “The president is not going to run.”

Kennedy just stared at him. “You’re kidding,” he said.

On the drive in from the airport, RFK seemed lost in thought. Finally, he said, “I wonder if he (LBJ) would have done this if I hadn’t come in.”

MLK ASSASSINATED

Bobby wouldn’t have much time to ponder Johnson’s motivations. While on the campaign trail four days later — again on an airplane — he recieved word that Martin Luther King had just been shot and killed by a sniper in Memphis.

Kennedy “sagged. His eyes went blank,” said New York Times reporter Johnny Apple, who delivered the news to RFK.

By the time Bobby arrived in Indianapolis, King had been reported dead. Fearing a race riot, the chief of police advised Kennedy to cancel his scheduled appearance in a mostly black neighborhood. Ignoring the warnings, RFK arrived at the speech site – a wind-blown lot surrounded by tenements – in his brother’s old overcoat with the collar turned up.

About a thousand people were gathered there, rallying and cheering for Bobby with all the usual excitment generated at his campaign stops. The crowd awaited his speech, happily oblivious to the news that Dr. King had been shot down. 

Throwing out his prepared remarks, Bobby pulled from his pocket a crumpled piece of paper with his own hastily scribbled notes and began to speak in quiet, reverent tones, his voice occasionally cracking with nervous emotion:

“Ladies and Gentlemen – I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because…

I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

(Audible gasps and cries of “No! No!” can be heard from the crowd)

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s 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 evidently is that there were white people who were responsible – you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

 

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also 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 get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even 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.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

(Interrupted by applause)

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love – a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

(Interrupted by applause)

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much.”

 
Listen to the entire speech 6:12

The murder of MLK, Lorraine motel, Memphis
(The murder of MLK. Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN. April 4, 1968.) 

PAIN WHICH CANNOT FORGET

Late that night, a sleepless, restless Kennedy was seen wandering the halls of his hotel alone. At 3 a.m., he knocked on the door of Joan Braden, an old friend who had also worked on JFK’s 1960 campaign. Bobby confided to her the true source of his agony.

“Joanie,” he said, “that could have been me.”

Two months later to the day Robert Kennedy was gunned down during a celebration following his victory in the California primary, June 4, 1968. He would die 26 hours later.

While it would be easy to look back after 40 years and dwell on 1968’s sorrows, its’ crippling series of tragedies, perhaps we should instead remember and take to heart Bobby Kennedy’s advice:

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.

I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!”

 

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final sermon.

 Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968

 

 

Copyright RFKJrforPresident.com

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Green Party Candidate Cynthia McKinney Raises 9/11 Questions

Cynthia McKinney, Green Party nominee for President

Cynthia McKinney, Green Party nominee for President

IF WE’RE READY FOR A BLACK PRESIDENT, OR A WOMAN, HOW ABOUT A BLACK WOMAN? 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our week-long look at some of the independent and third-party candidates in this race. No doubt about it, independent voters are going to be critical to this election, perhaps even the scale-tipper in a race that is tight as a drum.

While the mainstream media continues to openly discriminate against independent and third-party candidates, we feel a responsiblity in the progressive blogosphere to let you know about lesser-known alternatives and give you a taste of what they’re saying.

The story below comes from the official website of Cynthia McKinney, Green Party nominee for President in 2008. Longtime readers of this blog may recall that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was approached by the Greens last year as a potential presidential candidate for their party. Bobby (a lifelong Democrat), politely declined.

Official Statement from Cynthia McKinney – September 11, 2008

Seven years ago, criminal terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon were carried out on September with hijacked planes, that led to the deaths of thousands of people. A month later, key figures in the print and broadcast media and members of Congress were sent envelopes containing very lethal and highly weaponized anthrax, which led to the deaths of journalists and postal employees. After the initial shock diminished, there were calls for explanations, investigations, accountability and a reasoned response that did not include war. The administration ignored or openly opposed them. Instead we went into a call for permanent wars that would last beyond our lifetime, changes in civil liberties both overt and covert, a takeover of state power by the executive branch, and the creation of a national security emergency state that would somehow protect us.

Cynthia McKinney was one of the few voices of reason during that time in the Congress. Long an opponent of militarism and wars abroad, she also called for explanations and accountability when information began to come to light about multiple advanced warnings and apparent foreknowledge of the imminence and methods of the attack inside government intelligence agencies that still failed to prevent it. She supported calls by the families of the 9/11 victims for an official investigation in what was being termed a “failure of intelligence” even though it more closely resembled a failure of response, of standard operating procedures, and of government officials and agencies to respond and prepare for, or even comprehend the source of these attacks.

With the formation of the 9/11 Commission at the insistence of the families and the public, press attention and investigative journalism began to reveal much more about the historical relationship of our CIA and Pentagon with the same terrorists who were allegedly behind the attacks, about the role the US has played in the history and international relations in the Middle East since WWII, about illegal covert operations that were hidden from the people and the Congress and funded by profits from illegal drugs, about the obstruction of investigations into the hijackers prior to the events, and about the inexplicable failure of defenses during the attacks. When the official 9/11 Commission Final Report was released, it got wide attention and acclaim from the press, but the families said that 70% of their questions remained unanswered by this flawed investigation, and called for more hearings to get at the truth and to establish oversight and accountability.

Vilified and misquoted in the press at the time, McKinney had raised the first of many serious questions about the events and accountability in an atmosphere of denial. But she was vindicated when others began to ask the same questions in light of the evidence. Unable to get the Republican controlled Congress to allow further hearings, she organized a day-long briefing on the remaining questions and the flawed assumptions, investigation, conclusions and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission drawing on experts from across the country. A full transcript of that briefing appears at:

http://archives.allthingscynthiamckinney.com/mckinney.house.gov/20050722transcript.pdf

McKiinney marches with anti-war demonstrators, 2006

McKiinney marches with anti-war demonstrators, 2006

Long an opponent of government secrecy and an advocate of transparency in democracy, McKinney introduced legislation to release all the government classified files on Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and death. When she discovered at another public examination of the 9/11 Commission findings, held in New York City as a Citizens Commission, that every footnote at the end of the official report refers to interviews, documents and forensic materials that were sealed from public view by the Commission until 2009, she began to call for release of the records and evidence that are the only way to verify the conclusions of the official investigation. Most of these files were not classified or secret to start with. An effort to use the Freedom of Information Act to file requests of all the agencies involved for each document failed to release a single record to date. She continues to push for a release of all pertinent records in the case.

At this point, Cynthia McKinney stands in full support of the 9/11 families groups and the public who are seeking to establish a fully independent and transparent public investigation into the historical background, the events, the official response and aftermath of 9/11. The full truth is not yet known or established in this critical event that has shaped American domestic and foreign policy in the last seven years and may for decades to come.

McKinney is featured in a new British award-winning documentary called The Elephant in the Room (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4701757632630708538) about the public efforts to understand 9/11, and the Truth Movement.

She spoke out in New York City on the anniversary of the attack, giving several speeches and press conferences, including one at St. Mark’s Church on September 11.

For more information about Cynthia McKinney’s presidential campaign and the Green Party’s platform, visit http://gp.org or http://VoteTruth08.com

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Democrats Prepare for Showdown In Texas

THE EYES OF TEXAS ARE UPON THEM

In what promises to be the most important presidential debate since Kennedy-Nixon, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton will square off next week in a televised showdown which may well decide who gets the Democratic nomination.

All eyes are on Austin in the runup to the statewide presidential primary debate which will take place on March 4th. Democratic strategists predict that if Hillary Clinton does not win Texas and Ohio, her campaign is over. That’s why next Thursday’s debate is so critical.

Ironically enough, the site chosen for this key debate is the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Many will recall the uproar caused by Senator Clinton’s comments comparing herself to LBJ earlier this year, in a move some civil rights activists interpreted as an effort to minimize the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – a struggle he gave his life for.

LBJ Library, Austin, TX

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, Austin, TX

CNN will televise the must-see debate live on Thursday, Feb. 21, from 7-8:30 p.m. CST.

Although the event was originally scheduled to take place in the LBJ auditorium, organizers decided to move the debate to a larger venue on campus in order to accommodate the massive number of people wishing to witness this historic showdown.

As of today, here are the known details, according to the University Of Texas website:

WHERE: Recreational Sports Center (between the School of Social Work and the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletics Center). A map of campus is online.

To accommodate the National Democratic Primary Debate, the RSC will close at 2 p.m. on Monday, February 18, and re-open at 8 a.m. on Saturday, February 23.

SEATING INFORMATION: Distribution of student seating for the debate is being managed by the Office of the Dean of Students. Questions: 512-471-5017.

BACKGROUND: The debate is hosted by the University Democrats, a registered student organization, and is presented by the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation on behalf of the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the LBJ Library, CNN and Univision Communications, Inc.

Admission for students, members of the university community and the public is by invitation only due to what the university calls “security restrictions”.

Come to think of it, perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep the public at a safe distance after all. When these two candidates enter the arena that night for the battle of their lives, they won’t be pussyfootin’ around. For this duel, 10 paces may not be far enough.

But seriously…all here in Austin are thrilled to host the candidates for this debate, and we welcome them to the Wild Wild West next week.

“Ya’ Ready?….now, DRAW!”

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Op-Ed: The Night Dr. King’s Dream Came True

 

 

I Have a Dream Today
“I Have a Dream Today”

“NOW IS THE TIME TO MAKE REAL THE PROMISES OF DEMOCRACY”

Dr. Martin Luther King, from his immortal “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, August 28, 1963.

Barack Obama Victory Speech, Des moines, Iowa, January 3, 2008

“THEY SAID THIS DAY WOULD NEVER COME”

- Barack Obama, Victory Speech in Iowa, January 3, 2008

Last night, America changed forever — and for the better.

Last night, Democratic voters in Iowa shocked the world — and the political establishment.

Last night, 12 days before his birthday and in the 40th year since his assassination, the people of Iowa made Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream come true. They judged a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

Last night, Iowa Democrats honored the highest ideals that President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy stood and fought for — the ideals that Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and so many other lesser-known but equally brave Americans gave their lives for. They handed Senator Barack Obama a clear and decisive victory in the first caucus of the 2008 presidential race.

Last night, history was made, a massive milestone reached in what JFK once called the long twilight struggle. The struggle is far from over; we cannot for one moment forget the sacrifices it took to get us where we are — right now, right here in America.

Few under the age of 30 who were fortunate enough to grow up in a largely colorblind and desegregated society can imagine a time when their black brothers and sisters could not even sit beside them at a public lunch counter. Not so long ago in this country, a black American simply seeking to attend a state-run university had to be escorted in by federal troops after riots erupted in the streets. The very act of casting a vote was enough to put one’s safety in danger. In 1961 — the year Barack Obama was born — merely asserting a citizen’s right to travel subjected the Freedom Riders to brutal beatings, assault with firehoses, and the teeth of Bull Connor’s unforgiving, bloodthirsty police dogs.

Few of us over the age of 30 could have imagined the reality of an African-American man being a serious contender for President of the United States in our lifetimes. Few could honestly believe that in the American heartland, in a state whose population is nearly 95% white, Iowans would choose a black man as the candidate best qualified to lead our country.

But they did. And it’s wonderful. Somewhere, MLK is smiling. 

“WE ARE ONE PEOPLE. AND OUR TIME FOR CHANGE HAS COME.” – OBAMA

While Barack Obama is not the first black candidate to win a presidential primary (that honor goes to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who won five primaries in 1984 and 11 contests in 1988), he has upped the stakes considerably. Jackson’s wins made history, but his long history as a civil rights activist unfortunately caused him to be labeled as a radical. Many said Jackson was too liberal, too polarizing a figure to be the party nominee, and gave him little hope of winning a general election. By contrast, Obama appeals to mainstream American voters of both parties, giving him a far better chance to compete in November.

Jackson, a former King aide, was standing beside him on the balcony of the Hotel Lorraine in Memphis when MLK was murdered. His presidential bids in `84 and `88 revived the spirit of Dr. King and this helped propel Jackson’s candidacy to victory in several primaries. Jackson carried mostly left-leaning states with large black populations (Louisiana, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, Virginia and Mississippi in 1984, adding Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Michigan, Delaware and Vermont four years later), and was considered a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination early in 1988.

Can it happen again? Can Obama do even better? Many believe that he can. What made his surprise win in Iowa so remarkable was not just the fact that he pulled it off in a a key early primary state which is almost all white, but the David-and-Goliath aspect of this race made his victory even more interesting. His opponent was a former first lady and the projected winner in nearly every pre-caucus poll. Jesse Jackson did not have to campaign against a former president (stumping for his wife) of his own party — and an incredibly powerful, well-financed political machine.

But perhaps the most critical difference of all is that Obama seems to be bringing the right message for the times in which we live. A message of hope, of change, of unity — and that this message is clearly striking a deep chord with America’s youth, who will be our future.

In his victory speech last night, Senator Obama spoke of hope winning over fear. “We are choosing unity over division and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.

“We are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States!” 

It doesn’t matter if Barack Obama is your candidate or not. At present, he is not my candidate. He is not Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s candidate. What matters is the seismic change in American society and culture Obama’s victory last night represents. And that will reverberate forever.

See this story for more coverage of the Iowa Caucus results, and all candidates in the race.

Copyright RFKin2008.com. All Rights Reserved.

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