The News & Observer, 12/20/15
On April 4, 1968, the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy arrived in Indianapolis for a campaign rally. Advised by police against taking the stage in a part of the city considered to be a dangerous ghetto, Kennedy insisted on going. He arrived to find an enthusiastic crowd and—realizing they did not know of the assassination—broke the terrible news.
Against outcries of pain and anger, he calmed those assembled, quoting Aeschylus. “My favorite poet was Aeschylus,” he said. “He once wrote: ‘Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’” He mentioned his own pain over the killing of his brother and spoke of the necessity for compassion regardless of race.
That night, Indianapolis was the only city in the U.S. with a major African-American population that did not burn. I consider this a humanities moment: when a lesson from the classics offered context and understanding to a people in overwhelming shock and pain.