The day of the Ripple of Hope speech described by Kerry Kennedy

June 6, 1966 University of Capetown Capetown, South Africa

Outside the University’s Jameson Hall, eighteen thousand school officials and students gathered in bitter cold and wind, many for nearly three hours, awaiting Robert Kennedy’s arrival. He was immediately engulfed by the crowd, which was so dense that the Cape Times later reported that it was another half an hour before he was able to reach the auditorium.

The hall itself bore banners opposing the war effort in Vietnam and a chair remained empty on the dais in honor of Ian Robertson, the 21-year old student who, as President of the National Union of South Africa Students, had invited Robert Kennedy to speak at the University’s Day of Reaffirmation of Academic and Human Freedom. Just prior to the speech, Robertson was issued a “banning order,” under which the Apartheid government forbid him from making public appearances or speaking to members of the media.

Robert Kennedy followed a symbolic procession into the hall led by a student carrying the extinguished torch of academic freedom, and as he ascended to the stage past the chair left empty for Ian Robertson, tears glistened in his eyes.

 

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