Monday, March 30, 2009

RFK Speech Site to Receive Upgrades

Saturday, April 4, marks the forty-first anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 speech at Seventeenth and Broadway streets in Indianapolis announcing to a crowd that Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed. Kennedy's poignant remarks that evening helped avert potential violence in the community, as the crowd returned peacefully to their homes. In a number of major American cities, the news of King's death had sparked riots and destruction; Indianapolis remained peaceful.

In conducting research for my book on Kennedy's 1968 campaign in the Indiana Democratic presidential primary, I examined how and why Kennedy was in Indianapolis for his emotional speech. Indianapolis has paid homage to Kennedy's speech with a memorial at Martin Luther King Jr. Park at 1702 North Broadway Street that includes a Landmark for Peace sculpture of King and Kennedy. Unfortunately, the site is away from the hustle of the downtown area, and many visitors to the city are unaware of its existence.

The memorial's isolation may soon end if community leaders have their way. Organizers recently announced a $3 million fund-raising campaign to improve and expand the memorial. According to an article in the Indianapolis Star, the expansion would include:

* An eternal flame incorporated into a new sculpture or sculptures by Greg Perry, the artist who designed the existing memorial.

* An amphitheater to seat 75 to 200 people, depending on the final design.

* Twin elliptical walkways, one for King and one for Kennedy, that slope along a wall that abruptly ends to symbolize the sudden end of their lives.

A ceremonial groundbreaking will be held at the memorial from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 4.

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