Why you should care

Tragedy, oratory, Kennedy. Enough said.  

Teddy Kennedy may not have been the orator that his older brothers Jack and Bobby were, but he had a Kennedyesque way of rising to the oratorical occasion. And many would argue that his greatest speech was the stirring eulogy for Bobby that he delivered in New York’s St. Patrick Cathedral on June 8, 1968. With the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination less than a month away, we are reminded of the sacrifices these three brothers made for their country — and how they shaped the Kennedy legacy.

Words that capture a brother’s heartbreak and a nation’s incalculable loss.

It was a solemn occasion in St. Patrick’s that day as America grieved with the Kennedys, marking the second time in five years that it had seen one of its favorite sons brought down by an assassin’s bullet. Teddy let the eloquent Bobby do most of the talking: Almost three quarters of the 15-minute speech consists of direct quotations, including an 800-word passage lifted from RFK’s famous “Ripple of Hope” speech that he had delivered to South African students at the University of Cape Town almost two years to the day before his death.

Teddy’s recitation gives new life to his brother’s famous words — words that had largely been crafted by longtime RFK aide and speechwriter Richard Goodwin, author of LBJ’s “Great Society” moniker and spouse of presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. But it is Teddy’s own words, and the masterful rhythm and dignity with which they are delivered, that do his brother and his vision justice. Just listen as he offers his closing benediction, his voice trembling over “to his rest” — three words that capture a brother’s heartbreak and a nation’s incalculable loss:

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 some day come to pass for all the world.


Listen to a complete audio version of the eulogy here. You can also read a transcript here.

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