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Special event marks 56th anniversary of Kennedy speech, King assassination

Event to honor Dr. King, Robert F. Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Fifty-six years ago, on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis.

U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was about to board a flight to a campaign rally in Indianapolis when he found out Dr. King had been shot. When the plane landed, he learned that King was dead.

As violence erupted in other cities across the U.S., Indianapolis city officials and police urged Kennedy to cancel his campaign rally. He refused.

That evening, Kennedy met a crowd of supporters at 17th and Broadway streets and announced that Dr. King had been assassinated. He then made an impromptu speech that said in part:

“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 or lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”

– U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park is located near 17th and Broadway where Kennedy once spoke.

“Kennedy’s words of peace, empathy, and unity resonated profoundly, echoing the urgent need for reconciliation amidst chaos. His call for compassion and understanding amidst racial tensions provided a beacon of hope that is remembered and revered through the annual commemoration,” the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative said in a release.

On Thursday, the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative will host the 56th annual April 4 commemorative event, “Still We Reach: Together We Can.”

The event will take place at 5 p.m. near the iconic Landmark for Peace sculpture.

Organizers say this year’s event theme, “Still We Reach: Together We Can,” reflects our collective journey towards creating a society where love overcomes hate, understanding transcends prejudice, and unity triumphs over division. 

“The spirit of April 4, 1968, continues to resonate deeply with all of us,” Gregory Porter, chairman of the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative, told News 8. “As we gather at the Landmark for Peace, let us remember the courage and compassion of those who stood for justice. Let this event serve as a commemoration and a catalyst for our continued commitment to achieving peace and equality for all.” 

Those in attendance at Thursday’s event will hear speeches, performances, and reflections on progress since 1968 and the roads yet traveled toward racial equality and justice. 

Community leaders, historians, artists, and citizens will come together to honor Dr. King and Senator Kennedy’s legacies, reinforcing their message that we can overcome our society’s challenges only through unity.