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June 6, 2020

Statement from Victoria Reggie Kennedy on Recent Events Across the Nation

Over these last days, I have struggled to find words to express the shock and sadness I feel at the appalling murder of George Floyd at the hands of police. It is with deep respect for the memory of George Floyd and for the far too many black men and women whose lives were senselessly taken before him, that I join my colleagues at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute to say that violence against black people and racism must end now. We stand in solidarity with millions of Americans across this country who have stood in peaceful protest against police brutality and the systemic discrimination that has, since the birth of this nation, denied equal justice to black Americans.

On April 6, 1964, barely five months after the assassination of his brother President John F. Kennedy, my late husband Senator Edward Kennedy gave his maiden speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “We should use our powers not to create conditions of oppression that lead to violence,” he said, “but conditions of freedom that lead to peace.” Those words are truer today than ever before.

When my husband founded the Institute to educate new generations about the role of the U.S. Senate in our democracy, he was painfully aware that the Senate itself had served, time and again, as a ruthless obstacle to racial justice. But he also knew that when the Senate has had inspiring leaders, it has been an indispensable tool in our nation’s march for progress toward equality and justice for all.

In our system of government, our right to vote is the most powerful tool that a citizen has to effect change. An election gives us the opportunity to choose leaders who speak to our values and our hopes and dreams for the kind of America we want to live in.

We believe that elections are always important, but perhaps never more so in modern history than now. Therefore, in the coming weeks and months, the Kennedy Institute will focus its work on educating and inspiring voters to exercise their right to elect leaders. We believe that exercising that franchise and electing strong leaders is essential to enacting policies that will help heal the open wounds of racism in our society.

As Senator Kennedy said, “Democracy depends on citizenship and involvement –– working together to improve the lives of all.“


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