Robert F. Kennedy
University of Natal
Durban, South Africa, June 7th, 1966
There has been a long tradition of friendship between our two countries. I have been asked, since I have been here, about supposed antagonisms toward South Africa on the part of the United States. I think I can say that I don't know any country in which there is more friendship, more basic friendship, towards South Africa than there is in the United States.
Firstly, I think this is because we both came from the same kind of background and the same kind of environment.
We both-both of our countries - fought on the frontier and made our existence under very difficult circumstances.
We were both allies in the First World War - fighting for a democratic tradition, for Western tradition. We were both allies in the Second World War, fighting for the same tradition, for individual freedom and individual dignity.
We were allies in the Korean War and once again we fought together and made that effort together.
And now we both face problems - somewhat alike but in many cases very different.
There is that great feeling of affection and admiration for the people of South Africa among the people of the United States, and that is why I am so proud and so pleased to be visiting your country and to be here with you tonight.
When President Kennedy ran in 1960 it was really, I think, not only of special appeal to the young people of our own country, but all over the globe.
What he ran on, his basic platform, was the idea that the United States could do better - that we didn't have to be content with being second best in any field.
He went to the American people and said: "We can do better. We can find answers, we can find solutions to our problems."
"And," he said, "We don't have to be content with having the Negro as a second-class citizen in the United States." He said "I'm not promising you that we're going to he able to deal with this problem immediately. I am not promising you that the problem will disappear - but I am promising you that we will face the problem and we will do something about it."
He said the United States didn't have to be satisfied to be second in space - that we didn't have to look up at the moon at night and realize there was a Russian flag on it and that there wasn't anything belonging to the United States up there.
He said we could do this in the United States; that we have the ability, the skill and the courage - all we have to do is face our problems, realize our potential, realize our own intelligence and realize the fact that we have the courage and integrity and ability to get this job done.
So he went to the American people on that basis and he was elected president of the United States. And then the changes began in the United States.
I don't come here to South Africa - nor did I go to Latin America or to Europe - to say that these changes which were brought about made all the problems of the United States disappear.
But what they did do was indicate to the American people that we could discuss our problems - that we can have a dialogue.
What it did indicate was that we could discuss it publicly amongst all our citizens - that everybody's voice could be heard and we would listen to those who had ideas and answers or solutions, so that we could find the best answer.
That's what we did, starting in 1961. We waited through 1962 and 1963 and 1964 and the problems didn't disappear.
But in all of those areas we made progress - so that we are no longersecond in space, we are no longer treating the Negro as a second-class citizen, and we're the fastest growing industrial nation of any large nation in the world.
And what was done, what was accomplished, wasn't with any magician's wand. It was just facing up to the fact that we can, as human beings, find some answers. We can find some solution.
President Kennedy said "problems are made by man, therefore they can be solved by man."
That is what I think is important in all of our countries - that we face the problems of poverty, discrimination, our problems with other countries around the world and our domestic problems.