MLK & RFK Brothers In Battle

Rough day? Put it in perspective. The day before he was assassinated Martin Luther King gave a speech in which you are certain he knows he will be killed shortly. You can see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice, he carries it in his body. He’s been to the mountaintop, seen the promised land, he is ready to be taken.

The next day Robert Kennedy has to deliver the news of Martin Luther King’s death to an audience in Indianapolis. He quotes his favorite poet, Aeschylus, recounts the death of his brother, and asks for understanding, love and compassion between all people.

It would be difficult to find two better examples of public speaking under pressure, calling on something deep within, to connect emotionally and spiritually to an audience. MLK & RFK -their time with us was way too brief.

What is the depth of your commitment? How true are you to your raw beliefs? These are not questions that get asked often, if at all, in the course of business, especially in public relations. But we are not often inspired now, as we were then, to fight for justice, for truth, to pursue a path that stretches beyond worldly possessions.

Take a moment. Consider. Time is ruthless.

“He who learns must suffer, and even in our deep pain that cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God” (amended) – Aeschylus


  1. Lance Koz says:

    Thanks for posting this brief and thoughtful summary. It seems every year NPR posts a reminder of these brave acts and a search on Escalus brought me here.

  2. Matt Gangadin says:

    A perfect time and place in our Country’s brutial history.

  3. Eliz says:

    I too was brought here with a search for Escalus. Yeah, thanks for posting this.

  4. Laurie Gray says:

    I would love to have the full quotation from Escalus, as the version printed above doesn’t seem quite correct, and Kennedy’s version is certainly more poetic but perhaps not accurate. Can anyone find get it from the source itself? Thanks –

  5. Anna says:

    I wonder if there is a way to find a recording of the speech on line somewhere. Do either of you know?
    I also was moved by it and reminded of when I heard it one NPR the other day.

  6. Ryan says:


    You can download RFKs speech on iTunes as part of the great speeches free podcast…

  7. Ryan says:

    And, after some digging, I discovered that the poet’s name is spelled “Aeschylus”

  8. Jackie Westrop says:

    The quote is not ESCALUS this was a character in romeo and juliet and I think made to measure both of which are famous plays be shakespeare, the quote is from the anicient greek poet AESCHYLUS and the oriesti trillogy

  9. Jackie Westrop says:

    p.s I meant measure to measure fraudian moment !

  10. asdfasdf says:

    It’s “Even in our sleep…”


  11. Mark Rose says:

    Much discussion of this blog post from nearly two years ago. Did some digging and asdfasdf is right (probably), as is Jackie Westrop. See Wikiquote on Aeschylus and Agamemnon:

    Wisdom comes through suffering.
    Trouble, with its memories of pain,
    Drips in our hearts as we try to sleep,
    So men against their will
    Learn to practice moderation.
    Favours come to us from gods.

    Variant: He who learns must suffer
    And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
    Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
    And in our own despite, against our will,
    Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

    Historical Note: This was misquoted by Robert F. Kennedy in his speech announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King on 4 April 1968. It is the epitaph his family had enscribed on his grave marker in Arlington National Cemetery. His version:
    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.

  12. shaaka says:

    Did “Aeschylus”….tell you personally, that’s the correct way to spell
    his name ???

    SMART ARSE !!!

  13. Mark Rose says:

    Actually, yes. I was hangin with Aeschylus yesterday by the bodega on 157th & Bdwy and he whipped out his immigration card and showed me how to spell his name.

  14. Liam Stenson says:

    Aeschylus was fortunate, in these trying times in the United States, to be granted an immigration card at all – especially as he insists on spelling his name in that old fashioned Greek manner, rather than the phonetically preferred fashion of immigration officials worldwide.
    If ever there were a time when wisdom, in our despair, and against our will, could come falling drop by drop, then it is now.
    Observing the United States from three thousand miles distance, perhaps, makes it easier to see the woods and the trees and the need for the awful grace of God.

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