On April 4, 1968, Robert F Kennedy Robert F. Kennedy was campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. He was on his way to Indianapolis to deliver his well-known speech, “Remarks of the Assignation of Martin Luther King.” While Kennedy was on his way, he was informed of the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. Once he arrived there, Kennedy showed signs of sorrow and pain, relating to the pain that the Americans were feeling, delivering his emotional impromptu speech instead of the campaign speech.
There was an assumed large crowed size due to the fact that there was going to be a democratic campaign speech. There were approximately 1,000 residents there to witness that speech that day according to Lewis Sussman (Sussman, 2008). The campaign was held in an inner-city location, so the demographic audience would have been mostly black voters. This was a unique situation since Kennedy was a White male giving a speech in front of a black community of Martin Luther King’s death. The composition of Kennedy’s speech needed to present a sort of unity between himself and the audience as well as all blacks and whites in America.
Considering the current outrage over the discrimination of African Americans, tension was extremely high, the chief of police strongly advised him to leave due to how dangerous the situation could become such as riots due to the audience culture. Bravely, Kennedy insisted on educating the black community of the Martin Luther King’s death, since they had not about it. Analyzing the crowd’s demographics, he adapted his speech so they could understand the assassination of Martin Luther King’s death. Knowing that there might be a thirst for revenge, he words his speech that shows that he recognizes the emotions of his audience, by stating, “evidently is that there were white people who were responsible -- you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred and a desire for revenge…” (American Rhetoric, 2001) There was a lot of power behind this statement because he was realistic to his audience. Also, Kennedy standing in front of this audience showed that he respected them and saw them as he would white people. As most white men would have – he didn’t talk down to them, he adapted to the diversity and showed his audience that they were all on the same level.
The opening statements in Kennedy’s speech captured the attention of the audience even though they originally gathered to expose themselves to an entirely different campaign message. Kennedy starts his speech using Pathos, stating that he has an emotional message to share, requesting the campaign signs to be lowered. He specifically says, “…I have some -- some very sad news for all of you -- Could you lower those signs, please?” (American Rhetoric, 2001). This resulted in the political element to be removed from the speech, allowing Kennedy to speak at a personal level, linking himself personally to the message.