Robert F. Kennedy Speech Collection
The Robert F. Kennedy Speech Collection is a collection of Ball State University's Digital Media Repository containing a film, transcript, and complete audio recording of Robert F. Kennedy's April 4, 1968 speech in Muncie, Indiana. The collection also contains many photographs and a short research paper.
On March 16, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy declared his candidacy for president of the United States saying, “I do not run for the Presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new polices.” On March 28, he flew into Weir Cook Airport in Indianapolis to file as a presidential candidate in the Indiana primary.
On April 4, Kennedy made his first stop on the Indiana campaign trail at the University of Notre Dame, where a rally was held in support of his candidacy. Kennedy then continued on to Muncie, Indiana where he spoke at Ball State University.
In some ways, Robert F. Kennedy was following in his slain brother’s footsteps by visiting Muncie. John F. Kennedy spoke in Muncie during his 1960 campaign for presidency. Robert F. Kennedy’s stop in Muncie was part of his campus tour; he was scheduled to spend five days in Indiana and his brother Edward Kennedy was to campaign in the state for six days as well. Plans called for the entire Kennedy family to visit Indiana before the May 7, primary.
Local attorney Marshall Hanley was instrumental in bringing Robert F. Kennedy to Muncie. Hanley was the 10th District coordinator for the Kennedy campaign, a position he held during John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign.
The Men’s Gym was selected as the location for Kennedy’s speech; however there was much concern over filling all the seats in the gym. Conversely, the Gym was filled to capacity, with an estimated 9,000 people filling all the seats and the entire playing court, after playing waiting hours for Kennedy’s appearance.
On stage Kennedy was accompanied by his wife, Robert Stewart, Mayor Paul Cooley, Mrs. ArmeNa Rahe, and Marshall Hanley. Kennedy spoke for 34 minutes and spent 21 minutes answering questions presented by the audience. Kennedy’s speech was devoted to domestic issues and to potential international issues that may arise after withdrawal from the Vietnam War. He also spoke passionately about hunger and poverty in America and the rest of the world.
One student African-American student raised a question to Kennedy that seems almost a premonition of the speech to come later that night after the horrific events of the day. The student asked, “Your speech implies that you are placing a great deal of faith in white America. Is that faith justified?” Kennedy answered, “Yes” and added that “faith in Black America is justified, too” although he said there “are extremists on both sides.”
It has been argued that although this speech has been largely overlooked and ignored, due to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., it was one of most powerful and heartfelt speeches Kennedy delivered.
From Muncie, the Kennedy entourage flew back to Indianapolis that night where Robert F. Kennedy delivered what many call his greatest speech, announcing the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination to a predominantly African-American audience. Discarding the themes of his earlier speeches, Kennedy addressed the crowd for six minutes, speaking entirely about King’s death and its meaning for the nation and the world, ending by asking for prayers for King, his family, and “for our country.”
On May 7, 1968, Kennedy won Indiana’s Democratic primary with 42% of the vote compared to 31% for Indiana Governor Roger D. Branigin and 27% for Eugene McCarthy. Kennedy’s trip to Muncie had a positive impact on Delaware County voters, as he received 40% of the votes cast in the county.