NE Ohio teen’s speech evokes memories of Dr. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy
Nnemdi Amanambu, an 8th grader at Revere Middle School in Richfield, now shares a connection with two great American leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy, through the power of speech.
Nnemdi, competing in speech and debate for the first time this season, chose to enter declamation — an event where you memorize and deliver a famous person’s speech. The one she selected is the extrordinary extemporaneous remarks which Senator Kennedy gave to a crowd in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968.
Does something there sound familiar?
It was on this date that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis. When it happened, Senator Kennedy was campaigning for the Presidency of the U.S. in Indiana. He had a planned rally in Indianapolis that evening.
The Indianapolis Police feared for Kennedy’s safety and recommended that he cancel the appearance. But “Bobby” pressed on anyway. Most people in the crowd didn’t know yet that Dr. King had been slain.
Realizing how awful and horrific Dr. King’s murder was, and understanding the scourge it could put on the nation, Senator Kennedy began the speech by asking the crowd to lower their campaign signs. He then broke the news to them about Dr. King’s death. (You hear cries of anquish in the recordings of the rally after Kennedy told the crowd.)
Next, Kennedy reached deep into his heart and mind to deliver a talk about the need for Americans to love one another more and to abandon violent ways.
It was a much-needed message in 1968. It resonates even more in 2018.
“The speech was simple, but powerful. Nnemdi researched the historical context of the speech, and that increased her understanding and her appreciation of its importance,” says. Dr. Chimezie Amanambu, Amanambu’s father. “Participating in Speech and Debate has improved her confidence, social skills, and speaking abilities.”
As she memorized the speech and improved her delivery, Nnemdi’s scores rose in Northeast Ohio speech and debate tournaments. She finished in first place in middle school delcamation a few times, and she placed first in Ohio at the Ohio Speech and Debate Association’s first’ever Statewide Middle School tournament on March 10.
For Nnemdi, delivering Kennedy’s speech gave her a unique perspective to history and to the lives of two great leaders.
“When I read over it, I didn’t completely understand the importance of that moment in history,” she recalls. “Once I learned the massive effect the speech had on the crowd and on the world, I realized that I wasn’t just giving a speech; I was recreating a piece of history that had the power to calm a whole city.
“The speech revolutionized my understanding of the assassination of Martin Luther King and the role Robert Kennedy played that day,” Nnemdi adds. “The moment that I realized how important this was is when a judge commented that the speech is crucial now because of the problems occurring in the world today.”
Hear Nnemdi give Senator Kennedy’s speech at this link:
In the aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination, there were riots in more than 100 cities in the United States. Indianapolis, where Senator Kennedy had spoken, was peaceful. Just two months later, an assassin in California ended Senator Kennedy’s life.
Civic-minded leaders in Indianapolis and across the U.S. will commemorate Senator Kennedy’s important and powerful remarks on April 4.
Nnemdi Amanambu at Revere will always remember the speech, and be connected with it.
There are other sites for this speech, but here is the most unedited version of Senator Kennedy’s address in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968:
NOTE: Some media and political web sites list Senator Kennedy’s April 4, 1968, speech as one of the ten best of all time. Here are a couple of links: