112+ Best Robert F. Kennedy Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Robert Francis Kennedy was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 64th United States Attorney General from January 1961 to September 1964, and as a U.S. Senator from New York from January 1965 until his assassination in June 1968. Inspirational Robert Kennedy quotes will encourage growth in life, make you wiser and broaden your perspective.

Famous Robert F. Kennedy Quotes

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. – Robert Kennedy

It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task. – Robert Kennedy

Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice. – Robert Kennedy

Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. – Robert Kennedy

Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. – Robert Kennedy

If any man claims the Negro should be content… let him say he would willingly change the color of his skin and go to live in the Negro section of a large city. Then and only then has he a right to such a claim. – Robert Kennedy

All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don’t. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity. – Robert Kennedy

Virginia States’ rights, as our forefathers conceived it, was a protection of the right of the individual citizen. Those who preach most frequently about states’ rights today are not those seeking the protection of the individual citizen, but his exploitation. The time is long past — if indeed it ever existed — when we should permit the noble concept of states’ rights to be betrayed. – Robert Kennedy

Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies. – Robert Kennedy

I dream of things that are not and ask why not. – Robert Kennedy

The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country. – Robert Kennedy

You’re happiest while you’re making the greatest contribution. – Robert Kennedy

Together, we can make ourselves a nation that spends more on books than on bombs, more on hospitals than the terrible tools of war, more on decent houses than military aircraft. – Robert Kennedy

It is immoral to see evil and not act on it. – Robert Kennedy

Only those who have the courage to fail greatly achieve greatly. – Robert Kennedy

The gross national product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and jails for the people who break them. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of thier education, or the joy of their play. – Robert Kennedy

Ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired. – Robert Kennedy

The intolerant man will not rely on persuasion, or on the worth of the idea. He would deny to others the very freedom of opinion or of dissent which he so stridently demands for himself. He cannot trust democracy. – Robert Kennedy

Send forth a tiny ripple of hope. – Robert Kennedy

Some men see what is, and ask ‘Why?’ I see what might be, and ask ‘Why Not?’ – Robert Kennedy

GNP measures neither our courage, our wisdom neither our compassion. It measures everything except what makes life worthwhile – Robert Kennedy

About one month before he was killed, when asked by David Frost how his obituary should read: Something about the fact that I made some contribution to either my country, or those who were less well off. I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I’d like to feel that I’d done something to lessen that suffering. – Robert Kennedy

I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. – Robert Kennedy

Men without hope, resigned to despair and oppression, do not make revolutions. It is when expectation replaces submission, when despair is touched with the awareness of possibility, that the forces of human desire and the passion for justice are unloosed. – Robert Kennedy

The enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be the supreme goal and abiding practice of any western society. – Robert Kennedy

Nations around the world look to us for the leadership not merely by strength of arms but by strength of our convictions. – Robert Kennedy

People say I am ruthless. I am not ruthless. And if I find the man who is calling me ruthless, I shall destroy him. – Robert Kennedy

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. – Robert Kennedy

Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live. – Robert Kennedy

In your hands lies the future of your world and the fulfilment of the best qualities of your own spirit. – Robert Kennedy

I think there is an obligation on the part of all of us to stay informed and aware. – Robert Kennedy

Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle. – Robert Kennedy

This much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul. – Robert Kennedy

All great questions must be raised by great voices, and the greatest voice is the voice of the people – speaking out – in prose, or painting or poetry or music; speaking out – in homes and halls, streets and farms, courts and cafes – let that voice speak and the stillness you hear will be the gratitude of mankind. – Robert Kennedy

He tells so many lies that he convinces himself after a while that he’s telling the truth. He just doesn’t recognize truth or falsehood. – Robert Kennedy

This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease. – Robert Kennedy

Our answer is the world’s hope; it is to rely on youth. The cruelties and the obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress. This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease… – Robert Kennedy

Fear not the path of Truth for the lack of People walking on it. – Robert Kennedy

The natural state of a human being is dignity. – Robert Kennedy

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. – Robert Kennedy

We can master change not though force or fear, but only though the free work of an understanding mind, though an openness to new knowledge and fresh outlooks, which can only strengthen the most fragile and most powerful of human gifts: the gift of reason. – Robert Kennedy

The greatest truth must be recognition that in every man, in every child is the potential for greatness. – Robert Kennedy

Just because we cannot see clearly the end of the road, that is no reason for not setting out on the essential journey. On the contrary, great change dominates the world, and unless we move with change we will become its victims. – Robert Kennedy

But suppose God is black? What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response? – Robert Kennedy

What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet… – Robert Kennedy

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter. – Robert Kennedy

Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. – Robert Kennedy

Always forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. – Robert Kennedy

The essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer, not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, or a particular race, but to all its people. – Robert Kennedy

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black. – Robert Kennedy

When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies… – Robert Kennedy

The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better. – Robert Kennedy

There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of the comfortable past which, in fact, never existed. – Robert Kennedy

Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world which yields most painfully to change. – Robert Kennedy

Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as the talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances. – Robert Kennedy

But history will judge you, and as the years pass, you will ultimately judge yourself, in the extent to which you have used your gifts and talents to lighten and enrich the lives of your fellow men. In your hands lies the future of your world and the fulfillment of the best qualities of your own spirit. – Robert Kennedy

Every time you stand up for an ideal, you send forth a tiny ripple of hope. – Robert Kennedy

What is objectionable, what is dangerous, about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents. – Robert Kennedy

While free markets tend to democratize a society, unfettered capitalism leads invariably to corporate control of government. – Robert Kennedy

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? – Robert Kennedy

The future does not belong to those who are content with today Rather, it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason, and courage in a personal commitment. – Robert Kennedy

We must recognize the full human equality of all our people – before God, before the law, and in the councils of government. We must do this not because it is economically advantageous – although it is; not because the laws of God and man command it – although they do command it; not because people in other lands wish it so. We must do it for the single and fundamental reason that it is the right thing to do. – Robert Kennedy

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. – Robert Kennedy

Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded. – Robert Kennedy

It is the essence of responsibility to put the public good ahead of personal gain – Robert Kennedy

Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills… Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man – Robert Kennedy

I was the seventh of nine children. When you come from that far down you have to struggle to survive. – Robert Kennedy

One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time. – Robert Kennedy

Now I can go back to being ruthless again. – Robert Kennedy

Whenever men take the law into their own hands, the loser is the law. And when the law loses, freedom languishes. – Robert Kennedy

I thought they’d get one of us, but Jack, after all he’s been through, never worried about it I thought it would be me. – Robert Kennedy

The free way of life proposes ends, but it does not prescribe means. – Robert Kennedy

If communist unions ever gain a position to exercise influence in the transport lanes of the world, the free world will have suffered a staggering blow. – Robert Kennedy

In Massachusetts they [Democratic politicians] steal, in California they feud, and in New York they lie. – Robert Kennedy

We should, I believe, beware of the pitfalls described by Taine: ‘Imagine a man who sets out on a voyage equipped with a pair of spectacles that magnify things to an extraordinary degree. A hair on his hand, a spot on the tablecloth, the shifting fold of a coat, all will attract his attention; at this rate, he will not go far, he will spend his day taking six steps and will never get out of his room.’ We have to get out of this room. – Robert Kennedy

Sometimes people think that because you have money and position you are immune from the human experience. But I can feel as lonesome and lost as the next man when I turn the key in the door and go into an empty house that is usually full of kids and dogs. – Robert Kennedy

It will help erase the idea that politics is a second-rate profession and a dirty business. – Robert Kennedy

Killing one man is murder. Killing millions is a statistic – Robert Kennedy

Each generation makes its own accounting to its children. – Robert Kennedy

I am not one of those who think that coming in second or third is winning. – Robert Kennedy

Courage is the most important attribute of a lawyer. It is more important than competence or vision. It can never be an elective in any law school. It can never be de-limited, dated or outworn, and it should pervade the heart, the halls of justice and the chambers of the mind. – Robert Kennedy

I believe that as long as a single man may try, any unjustifiable barrier against his efforts is a barrier against mankind. – Robert Kennedy

My views on birth control are somewhat distorted by the fact that I was seventh of nine children. – Robert Kennedy

Men and women with freed minds may often be mistaken, but they are seldom fooled. They may be influenced, but they cannot be intimidated. They may be perplexed, but they will never be lost. – Robert Kennedy

Even government by the consent of the governed, as in our own Constitution, must be limited in its power to act against its people; so that there may be no interference with the right to worship, or with the security of the home; no arbitrary imposition of pains or penalties by officials high or low; no restrictions on the freedom of men to seek education or work or opportunity of any kind, so that each man may become all he is capable of becoming. – Robert Kennedy

It is not realistic or hardheaded to solve problems and take action unguided by ultimate moral aims and values, although we all know some who claim that it is so. In my judgment, it is thoughtless folly. For it ignores the realities of human faith and of passion and of belief – forces ultimately more powerful than all of the calculations of our economists or of our generals. Of course to adhere to standards, to idealism, to vision in the face of immediate dangers takes great courage and takes self-confidence. But we also know that only those who dare to fail greatly, can ever achieve greatly. – Robert Kennedy

GDP does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play – Robert Kennedy

Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. And everyone here will ultimately be judged – will ultimately judge himself – on the effort he has contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which his ideals and goals have shaped that effort. – Robert Kennedy

People are selfish, but they can also be compassionate and generous, and they care about the country. But not when they feel threatened. That’s why this is such a crucial time. We can go in either direction. But if we don’t make a choice soon, it will be too late to turn things around. I think people are willing to make the right choice. But they need leadership. They’re hungry for leadership. – Robert Kennedy

The road toward equality of freedom is not easy, and great cost and danger march alongside us. We are committed to peaceful and nonviolent change, and that is important for all to understand – though all change is unsettling. Still, even in the turbulence of protest and struggle is greater hope for the future, as men learn to claim and achieve for themselves the rights formerly petitioned from others. – Robert Kennedy

Victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. – Robert Kennedy

We develop the kind of citizens we deserve. – Robert Kennedy

Each nation has different obstacles and different goals, shaped by the vagaries of history and of experience. Yet as I talk to young people around the world I am impressed not by the diversity but by the closeness of their goals, their desires and their concerns and their hope for the future. – Robert Kennedy

All do not develop in the same manner, or at the same pace. Nations, like men, often march to the beat of different drummers, and the precise solutions of the United States can neither be dictated nor transplanted to others. What is important is that all nations must march toward increasing freedom; toward justice for all; toward a society strong and flexible enough to meet the demands of all its own people, and a world of immense and dizzying change. – Robert Kennedy

It is an unfinished society that we offer the world-a society that is forever committed to change, to improvement and to growth, that will never stagnate in the certitude of ideology or the finalities of dogma. – Robert Kennedy

I now know how Tojo felt when he was planning Pearl Harbor. – Robert Kennedy

After all, a bank without assets is hardly a bank at all. – Robert Kennedy

What happens to the country, to the world, depends on what we do with what others have left us. – Robert Kennedy

Since the days of Greece and Rome the word ‘citizen’ was a title of honor. We have often seen more emphasis put on the rights of citizenship than on its responsibilities. – Robert Kennedy

Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change. – Robert Kennedy

Courage is the virtue that President Kennedy most admired. He sought out those people who had demonstrated in some way, whether it was on a battlefield or a baseball diamond, in a speech or fighting for a cause, that they had courage that they would stand up, that they could be counted on. – Robert Kennedy

And as long as America must choose, that long will there be a need and a place for the Democratic Party. We Democrats can run on our record but we cannot rest on it. We will win if we continue to take the initiative and if we carry the message of hope and action throughout the country. Alexander Smith once said, ‘A man doesn’t plant a tree for himself. He plants it for posterity.’ Let us continue to plant, and our children shall reap the harvest. That is our destiny as Democrats. – Robert Kennedy

Democracy is no easy form of government. Few nations have been able to sustain it. For it requires that we take the chances of freedom; that the liberating play of reason be brought to bear on events filled with passion; that dissent be allowed to make its appeal for acceptance; that men chance error in their search for the truth. – Robert Kennedy

A life without criticism is not worth living. – Robert Kennedy

The [next] priority for change the first element of a new politics for the United States is in our policy toward the world. Too much and for too long, we have acted as if our great military might and wealth could bring about an American solution to every world problem… – Robert Kennedy

I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the world. – Robert Kennedy

Religion is a salve for confusion and misdirection. – Robert Kennedy

Oh no, oh no… don’t lift me, don’t lift me. – Robert Kennedy

I think we can end the divisions within the United States. What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis. And that what has been going on with the United States over the period of that last three years, the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, the divisions – whether it’s between blacks and whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups, or in the war in Vietnam – that we can work together. We are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running. – Robert Kennedy

Your life can be anything you want it to be. – Robert Kennedy

If you never quit, you’ll never fail. – Robert Kennedy

The Gross National Product measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile. – Robert Kennedy

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