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(1966) Robert F. Kennedy, “Day of Affirmation Address"

On June 7, 1966, New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy became one of the first major American politicians to take a public stand against South African Apartheid when he delivered an address to the National Union of South African Students in New York City.  His address appears below.

I CAME HERE BECAUSE of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which once imported slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage. I refer, of course, to the United States of America.

This is a Day of Affirmation, a celebration of liberty. We stand here in the name of freedom.

At the heart of that Western freedom and democracy is the belief that the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit. Therefore the enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be the supreme goal and the abiding practice of any Western society.

The first element of this individual liberty is the freedom of speech: the right to express and communicate ideas, to set oneself apart from the dumb beasts of field and fore t; to recall governments to their duties and obligations; above all, the right to affirm one"s membership and allegiance to the body politic-to society-to the men with whom we share our land, our heritage, and our children"s future.

Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard, to share in the decisions of government which shape men"s lives. Everything that makes man"s life worthwhile--family, work, education, a place to rear one"s children and a place to rest one"s head-all this depends on decisions of government; all can be swept

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