Martin Luther King Assassination Speech

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Audience and Occasion: Rhetorical Analysis of Robert F. Kennedy’s Statement on Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lu Jia
The Occasion of the speech, its constraints and opportunities
When he learned about Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4th, 1968, Robert Kennedy had just landed in Indianapolis, Indianan for his presidential campaign activities. In spite of warnings about his own safety, he headed directly to an African-American neighbourhood to deliver the horrible news.1 He stood in front of the gathering and gave an impromptu speech, which, despite all situational constraints, was received positively. The crowd dispersed quietly after the speech. 2 Later that evening and on the following days, riots broke out in most major cities in the United States but not in Indianapolis, which many attributed to the success of Kennedy’s heartfelt speech on that evening.
One purpose of his speech was to deliver the sad news and to honour Martin Luther King; the other purpose was to mitigate the hatred among African-Americans after they heard the news. In light of this, his speech was both a eulogy and deliberative. As a eulogy, he first praised the deceased (“Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort”) and also gave advice for the living (“I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that 's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for
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