It is in the final paragraphs of his speech that the qualities of leadership, absent in today's presidential field, shine the brightest.
"We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people."
It would be easy to mistake this article, extolling a speech given by one of the leading symbols of progressivism, as partisan. But what Kennedy displayed in this speech is that political leadership is far different from partisan leadership.
On April 4th, 1968, what was needed in our country was not blame, it was not hatred, it was leadership. Kennedy had a pulpit by which he could make an effort to lead, to heal a nation that in 1968 seemed to be spinning out of control. His recognized the moral responsibility of his position, something Donald Trump fails to do.
In using this pulpit, he did not promise the world. In addressing one of the great challenges of the time, he did not promise and end to violence, an end to lawlessness, an end to disorder. He did not promise to turn the tide of society, only that society could turn the tide for itself. He chose his words to lead, not to appeal, something Hillary Clinton fails to do.
He did not blame, he did not villainize, he did not attack. He recognized the universal truth that runs through America: that most Americans, regardless of race, income, or political affiliation, want what is best for our nation. The monumental problems we face as a nation cannot be solved by continually driving away the other side. Real leadership bridges the gap. This is a quality that the current presidential candidates lack.
More than forty years later, the power in Kennedy's words continues to ring. We can do well in this country. The diverse problems we face as a nation may make excellent fodder for partisan candidates, but no candidate will accomplish anything if we do not first accept the responsibilities of leadership. As a nation, as voters, we need to dedicate ourselves to a higher standard of leadership, that does not tolerate fear mongering or hollow campaign promises.
We will not eradicate partisanship, or fringe candidates. We will not eliminate empty shirt politicians or hollow campaign rhetoric. But our better angels have not ceased to exist, and we deserve candidates that represent them.