Excerpts from Robert Kennedy’s Day of Affirmation Address

posted by Judge_Burke @ 14:00 PM
June 19, 2013

Excerpts from Robert Kennedy’s Day of Affirmation Address at Cape Town University – Robert F. Kennedy, June 6, 1966:

The first element of this individual liberty is the freedom of speech: the right to express and communicate ideas, to set oneself apart from the dumb beasts of field and forest; the right to recall governments to their duties and to their obligations; above all, the right to affirm one’s membership and allegiance to the body politic — to society — to the men with whom we share our land, our heritage, and our children’s future.

Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard, to share in the decisions of government which shape men’s lives. Everything that makes man’s life worthwhile — family, work, education, a place to rear one’s children and a place to rest one’s head — all this depends on the decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people, and I mean all of its people. Therefore, the essential humanity of man can be protected and preserved only where government must answer — not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, not just to those of a particular race, but to all of the people.

And even government by the consent of the governed, as in our own Constitution, must be limited in its power to act against its people, so that there may be no interference with the right to worship, but also no interference with the security of the home; no arbitrary imposition of pains or penalties on an ordinary citizen by officials high or low; no restriction on the freedom of men to seek education, or to seek work or opportunity of any kind, so that each man may become all that he is capable of becoming.

These — These are the sacred rights of Western society. These were the essential differences between us and Nazi Germany, as they were between Athens and Persia‚Ķ Our answer is the world’s hope: It is to rely on youth. The cruelties and the obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress.

This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease — a man like the Chancellor of this University.

It is a revolutionary world that we all live in, and thus, as I have said in Latin America and in Asia and in Europe and in my own country, the United States, it is the young people who must take the lead. Thus, you, and your young compatriots everywhere, have had thrust upon you a greater burden of responsibility than any generation that has ever lived.

“There is,” said an Italian philosopher, “nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the — in the introduction of a new order of things.” Yet this is the measure of the task of your generation, and the road is strewn with many dangers.

First, is the danger of futility: the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery, against ignorance, or injustice and violence. Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant Reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and 32 year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that “all men are created equal.”


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