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RFK’s Speech at Ball State 50 Years Ago Stirred Thousands; Preceded Historic Indianapolis Address

By Stan Sollars, IPR News | Published on in Government, Uncategorized
BSU photo

On April 4, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was a Democratic candidate for the presidency.  He gave a midday speech at Notre Dame, then flew to Muncie where he addressed between 9,000 and 10,000 students, here, at Ball State, in Men’s Gymnasium – later named Irving Gymnasium, at Neely and McKinley. The gym was razed and in its place, today stands the Jo Ann Gora Recreation and Wellness Center.

Robert Kennedy, his wife Ethel, rode to Men’s Gym from the Muncie airport in a red convertible.  They were enthusiastically received along the route and, as you will hear, in the packed gymnasium.  WBST and its student news staff broadcast the speech in its entirety, and a question and answer session afterwards, beginning around 6:10 p.m.   We have a portion of that address at Ball State as broadcast live on WBST.  We now go back 50 years, to April 4th, 1968.

It was at the Muncie airport, after his Ball State speech, that Robert Kennedy was told Dr. King was killed. He flew to Indianapolis to make what was to have been a campaign appearance.  Instead, he gave a compassionate homily regarding Dr. King, and the need for love rather than violence in our country.

Kennedy’s extemporaneous Indianapolis address, near 17th Street and Broadway, is considered by many scholars as one of the finest speeches delivered by a politician in the 20th century.

Kennedy is credited with helping to keep Indianapolis calm.  Dozens of large cities burned and saw rioting in reaction to Dr. King’s assassination that night  — but not Indianapolis.


Full-length speech by Robert F. Kennedy at Ball State University, April 4, 1968: