and did not shy away from this reality during his speech. Despite the obvious cultural differences between Kennedy and his audience, he created common ground by emphasizing that 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 who abide in our land.” He also referred to his audience as “fellow citizens” and used the reference of the
L03 ASSIGNMENT 4 United States being “our land”. This further established how a wealthy, highly educated, White man like Kennedy had a shared interest with his black audience as they were Americans, above all else, with one common goal to make the country a better place. Emotions of shock, rage, and sadness were all palpable after RFK delivered the news about King’s death. He made an effort to calm these emotions and appeal to the psychology of his audience by calling for a national transcendence of racial, ethnic and generational mistrust, in words that were directed at the times he lived in—the civil rights battles and Vietnam protests of that era (Warrenburg, 2009). Kennedy insisted that the United States did not need divisiveness, hatred, lawlessness, or violence but rather love, wisdom, compassion, “and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.” Most effectively, he identified with his audience’s pain and grief by sharing how the murder of his own brother at the hands of a white man had also left him with these “same feelings in his own heart”. In this moment of vulnerability, he was able to forge a bond with his audience and earn their trust by demonstrating that his intentions were heartfelt and not motivated by any political agenda. While sharing the memory of his own agonizing tragedy, RFK also hinted at how he had gotten through it and overcome his own anger and pain, appealing to the crowd’s idealism by invoking words written by the Greek poet, Aeschylus, who had lived in the world’s first democracy (Warrenburg, 2009).
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