Dr. King and Robert Kennedy are Building a Neighborhood

On April 4, 1968, we tragically lost Dr. Martin Luther Jr. That night, Robert Kennedy spoke to a large crowd on a dark, rainy Indianapolis street corner. His speech is now counted among the greatest speeches in American history – and it has become part of Indianapolis character. The speech told people the unspeakable news, and shared what makes America great: working hard together to inspire hope, no matter how hard, no matter how daunting. Indianapolis was at peace that night as people returned home to think about what kind of country we should become.

Indiana Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society

Indiana Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society

I first became aware of April 4, 1968 when I saw its effect in other people. I saw people who became inspired to do public service careers and public good in whatever lives they led. I saw people working to establish hope no matter what. Then I saw President Clinton come to King Park and dedicate that space where it all happened. A memorial stands there today.

Later, I joined a diverse community group which eventually became the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative (KKMI) www.kennedykingindy.org What has emboldened me more than anything is how the space draws people, and affects them after they leave. Out-of town visitors, local officials, celebrities, neighborhood residents all stand there looking, thinking, wondering, silent. Every time I see that, I become moved. I know that our mission is working, that people will learn about the history, that they will think about what it means today, and how we live our lives, and how it points towards the future as we grapple with challenges personal and public. We continue to teach youth, train teachers, build the park, and of course, commemorate April 4, 1968 every year.


Today, the King Park area is experiencing a renaissance, all centered around that special space with its storied history. We at KKMI like to say that the “dream” happened there that special night when the loss of one leader became an awe-inspiring moment through another. This month, KKMI will be hosting and convening a special event to unify the 7 King Park area neighborhood associations and figure out its priorities. It will be social, engaging, informational, and most important, thought provoking. Just like Robert Kennedy told us to do over 48 years ago. And it just feels like MLK and RFK will continue to build that neighborhood forever.

Judge David J. Dreyer is the Chair of the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative, Inc. He has served on the Marion Superior Court since 1997.


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