Why John Lewis hasn't returned to Indy park since Robert Kennedy's speech

Posted at 8:19 AM, Apr 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-04 13:26:25-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- Among the people coming to Martin Luther King Park Wednesday to remember both the civil rights leader and the speech that Sen. Robert Kennedy gave on the night of his death is Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

Lewis, a civil rights leader in his own right, helped organize the March on Washington in 1963 and participated in the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

Lewis was campaigning with Kennedy in Indiana on April 4, 1968, the day King was assassinated. He hasn't been back to the park at 17th Street and Broadway Avenue since the night Robert Kennedy gave a now-famous speech there.

“I have not gone back to that spot since," Lewistold the Washington Post. "It’s just been too hard, too difficult.”

Lewis said King was like a "big brother" to him.

“[King] inspired me to get in trouble — what I call good trouble, necessary trouble," Lewis said. "And I’ve been getting in trouble ever since.” 

Lewis teared up when discussing King and Kennedy, who was assassinated a few months after his speech. 

“I just felt like something had died in all of us when we heard that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated," Lewis said. "But I said to myself, well, we still have Bobby. And a short time later, he was gone. ... It was sort of the end of something. They were our future. Unbelievable. They gave us hope. If they had lived, maybe our country would be much better; maybe the world would be much better.”

Click below to listen to the full conversation with Rep. Lewis. 

Lewis will be returning to the park Wednesday, on the 50th anniversary of the speech.

Kennedy's appearance in Indianapolis was supposed to be a campaign speech for president. Instead, it became a plea for peace, as Indianapolis remained calm while other cities turned to violence.

"Well really everyone here was looking forward to that campaign speech, and it turned out to be, of course, not that at all, but rather something more deeply rooted and more profound," Indianapolis resident Jim Trulock said. "And indeed the best speech I ever heard."

MORE MLK/KENNEDY COVERAGE | 50 years later, Hoosiers remember Robert Kennedy speech in Indy | Indianapolis' MLK Memorial Park: From small park to national icon | President Trump signs bill to make Kennedy-King Park in Indianapolis a National Commemorative Site | See where Martin Luther King Jr. spent his final hours 50 years ago | Six teens walking 50 miles to Memphis in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

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