A Ripple of Hope: RFK and MLK

By | May 13, 2010

I rented A Ripple of Hope from Blockbuster online — and you should do the same. This just-released 54-minute documentary is about Robert Kennedy’s April 4, 1968 campaign speech in Indianapolis, the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It is one of the most profound and important speeches in American history:

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

I wept during the film. I lent it to peaceCENTER director Ann Helmke: she watched it twice and wept too. Martin Sheen reports that he wept.  Rep. John Lewis — and the other commentators, including many regular citizens who were present at the speech — were profoundly moving. In a few strokes, the event is put in historical context.

Generally, I recommend a 5-10 minute clip of a film to show in a classroom setting. With this film, show it all, every last minute. One way to approach this would be to show the first half of the film — before it is clear that the speech is actually going to be delivered — stop, and assign the students to outline their OWN short speeches. Start the second session by discussing the student’s speeches and their rationale. Then, watch the second half of the film, discuss how it broke all the classic rules of speechmaking, and analyze why it worked.

A Ripple of Hope is available for purchase, through the PBS store or on Amazon. It’s also available to PBS stations, but it appears that few have aired it.

I would show this during the session on Martin Luther King in the Class of Nonviolence. A good companion film would be Citizen King; there is an excellent 10-minute section in the last part of the two-hour-long Citizen King that covers his anti-war activism, including an excerpt from his speech at Riverside Church and the (mostly) negative reaction of other civl rights leaders to his opposition to the war in Vietnam.

 

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