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RFK Speaks at Marquette University Commencement

June 7, 1964 - Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy coined a label today for the current college generation: “The concerned generation.”

Speaking at the Marquette University commencement, where he received an honorary degree, Mr. Kennedy observed that labeling college generations was always risky.

“To call earlier college eras simply the Silly or Silent Generations was to exaggerate,” he said. “But I think it fair to describe yours as a generation of unusually genuine and intense concern with social justice and intellectual freedom.”

He noted that political and social “involvement” brought thousands of students into community problems, remedial reading projects, and civil rights. He added: “Peace marchers or college civil rights demonstrators may not always express their concerns in the wisest or most effective manner, but it is clear that those concerns are deeply felt.”

Mr. Kennedy said there was no need to exhort today’s graduates to become concerned, but he said the question was whether they would go on and participate whole-heartedly in politics, government, and community affairs. He strongly urged that they do so. He suggested that the axiom, “Youth will be served,” was being changed to “Youth will serve.”

Marquette University is a Jesuit institution. The honorary degree citation said Mr. Kennedy was a “relentless exposer of corruption in public life” and had taken a “calm, dignified and determined position” on civil rights.

The ceremonies were held in the Milwaukee Arena. The crowd of 12,000 gave Mr. Kennedy heavy applause.

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