Famous Eulogies: Edward Kennedy on Robert Kennedy

Kennedy's outside Oval Office
President John F. Kennedy (right) and his brothers, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy (middle) and U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, outside of the White House's Oval Office, August 28, 1963. Photo © Cecil Stoughton/U.S. National Archives

Ideally, a well-crafted and -delivered eulogy illuminates and elucidates special qualities about the deceased that enhance the existing emotional and spiritual connections between the person who died and the living, thereby focusing and increasing a listener's appreciation of the life lost. In some cases, the eulogy itself proves a memorable and meaningful embodiment of both the unique nature of the departed and the depth of feeling that endures in the hearts and minds of those who remain.

This article presents the (partial*) text of just such an enduring remembrance speech: the eulogy delivered by U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy of his brother, U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy, on June 8, 1968, at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, New York. Three days earlier in California, following a successful primary election in that state for the Democratic U.S. presidential nomination, Robert Kennedy was shot multiple times by assassin Sirhan Sirhan shortly after midnight on June 5. Despite extensive medical and surgical effort, Robert Kennedy ultimately died of his wounds at 1:44 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, on June 6.

* Author's note: The text below offers excerpts from Edward Kennedy's moving-but-lengthy eulogy. A link to the full audio-visual eulogy is provided at the end of this article.

The Eulogy of Robert F. Kennedy by Edward M. Kennedy

June 8, 1968

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Mr. President:

On behalf of Mrs. Kennedy, her children, the parents and sisters of Robert Kennedy, I want to express what we feel to those who mourn with us today in this cathedral, and around the world.

We loved him as a brother, and as a father and as a son. From his parents, and from his older brothers and sisters -- Joe and Kathleen and Jack -- he received an inspiration which he passed on to all of us.

He gave us strength in time of trouble, wisdom in time of uncertainty and sharing in time of happiness. He will always be by our side.

Love is not an easy feeling to put into words. Nor is loyalty, or trust or joy. But he was all of these. He loved life completely and he lived it intensely. A few years back, Robert Kennedy wrote some words about his own father, which expresses the way we in his family felt about him. He said of what his father meant to him, and I quote:

"What it really all adds up to is love; not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it."

And he continued:

"Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention, there were people who were poor and needed help, and we have a responsibility to them and to this country.

Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well-off."

*************

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death, beyond what he was in life... to be remembered simply as a good and decent man; who saw wrong and tried to right it; saw suffering and tried to heal it; saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him, and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us, and what he wished for others, will someday come to pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not."

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