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Robert F. Kennedy's Address at the University of Cape Town

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Nicole Meickle

on 23 October 2014

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Transcript of Robert F. Kennedy's Address at the University of Cape Town

Robert F. Kennedy's Address at the University of Cape Town
By Caitlin Harper, Christian Keale, and Nicole Meickle
Background (1966) :
Human rights
Hope for the Future
Individual liberty
Civil Rights
Power of Youth

Cape Town, South Africa
June 6, 1966
Invited by the President of the National Union of South African Students (Ian Robertson who had been banned under the Suppression of Communism Act and could not attend)
To deliver the University's Day of Reaffirmation of Academic and Human Freedom speech
At the University of Cape Town
Worst years of the Apartheid in South Africa
Heated years of the Civil Rights movement in the US
Fear of communism escalated in the US
Shortly after the death of his brother John F. Kennedy

About 18,000 school officials and students
Youth of the world
South Africa
Future Voters
Black South Africans, African Americans, White Americans, and White South Africans
Members of The National Union of South African Students at The University of Capetown


To evoke hope of a better world
To inspire the world’s youth to eliminate racism and such injustices
To portray the similarities between the Apartheid in South Africa and the civil rights struggle in the US
To degrade communistic ideals
To unite a fragmented world

Senator of NY
Future Presidential Nominee
White Man
Born/Raised in Massachusetts
Well-Educated (Harvard + UVA Law School)
Wealthy (from affluent family)
Admired (Celebrity Image)
Served in Navy

Urgent / Serious
Inspiring / Motivating

United States of America -
President = Lyndon B. Johnson
Civil Rights Movement is ongoing

South Africa -
Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd = 7th Prime Minister of South Africa
Apartheid is being protested

Directions: Carefully read and annotate the following passage, analyze how Robert F. Kennedy used rhetorical devices to inspire the world’s youth to eliminate racism and inequality.

On June 6th, 1966, Robert F. Kennedy, a New York Senator, delivered the “Day of Reaffirmation of Academic and Human Freedom” speech to the members of the National Union of South African Students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Racial tensions in both South Africa and the United States were high as South Africa was facing the worst years of the Apartheid and the US was experiencing the height of the Civil Rights movement.

In his address at the University of Cape Town, Robert F. Kennedy evoked pathos, built his ethos, and appealed to logos to inspire the world's youth to permanently eliminate racism and inequality.

Positive Diction-
"predominance of courage" (14-15)
"High Aspirations" (99)
"Great Courage" (119)
"Self Confidence" (120)
"Hope" (1,77,90)
"Achieve Greatly" (122)
Robert F. Kennedy evoked optimism through the use of effective imagery and a reassuring tone.
Reassuring Tone:
"illusion of security" (8-9)
"burden of responsibility" (18)
"tiny ripple of hope" (80)
"walls of oppression and resistance" (85-86)

Uses the images created by the metaphors to first stress the current situation the youth faces then give them hope that they are able to make a difference (leaves audience feeling optimistic and motivated)
The tone is significant because as RFK suggests the task of the world's youth is no small feat, however, the tone allows the purpose to appear possible. (empowering audience to work towards it)
Robert F. Kennedy builds his ethos by layering quotations and cataloging allusions.
Robert F. Kennedy appealed to logos through the highly-organized structure and use of specific examples.
Specific Examples:
"A young monk began.." (44-53)

Answer and Explanation-
A: "Our answer is the world's hope: It is to rely on youth." (1-2; 1st paragraph)
E: "This world demands the qualities of youth" (11-12; 2nd paragraph)

Numerically Ordered Points-
"First, is the danger of futility" (37)
"The second danger is that of expediency" (89)
"A third danger is timidity" (130)

Peace Corps Volunteers (63-66)
Unknown men and women in Europe (66-70)
Quotations from Archimedes (54-56), Pericles (82-86), and Aristotle (140-145)

Uses the
answer and explanation
mechanism to convey to the audience how RFK knows the "answer" to ending racial tensions and then uses the "explanation" to further his purpose which is that the solution is the worlds youth making a change
RFK uses
numerically ordered points
to clearly address all of the dangers associated with the change which assures the audience that clearly RFK sees the danger, however he still believes in his purpose, therefore reassuring the audience in a logical way
RFK uses specific examples to show his audience logical examples of various groups and specific individuals that have made changes. By doing so, RFK is logically showing the youth that other people have done it, therefore they can too. (encouraging them)
"'There is,' said an Italian philosopher..." (28- 33)
"'Give me a place to stand,' said Archimedes..." (54-56)
"If Athens shall appear..." (82- 86)
"Aristotle tells us: 'At the Olympic...'" (139- 145)

RFK catalogs this series of allusions to develop credibility in his claim that young people have the power to create change. Within the allusions the repetition of the phrase "a youth" highlights the importance of young people in making change and strengthens his argument
RFK uses quotations that are relatable to his broad audience and that tie him to past philosophers while inspiring and encouraging his viewers through the words of others.
Full transcript