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RFK Speaks in Scranton

Mar. 17, 1964 - “I appreciate it, but I think it’s out of place.”

In soft-spoken tones, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was reacting to the unexpected appearance tonight in the ballroom of the Hotel Casey in Scranton, Pa., of a group of college students carrying placards calling for his selection as the Democratic candidate for Vice President.

Earlier, the Attorney General told two newsmen who managed to catch him en route to the dinner that he is undecided about whether to be receptive to the nomination if President Johnson asked him to run. “I haven’t made up my mind what I’m going to do,” he said.

These two incidents were the only forays into the field of politics during his 7½-hour tour of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The incident at the hotel, before the start of the program of the 59th annual dinner of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, illustrated Mr. Kennedy’s present mood. He had little reaction as the students walked in quietly, holding their placards.

One of the signs read: “The only honest and sincere draft in Scranton is for Bobby for Vice President.” This was a shot at Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton, who has said he is not a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination but would respond to an “honest and sincere draft.”

But the brief demonstration did not break down the wall of reserve the Attorney General has developed since the assassination of his brother, President Kennedy.

During his prepared remarks, the lone place where he showed a trace of emotion — and the place where he gripped the audience in a silence which showed they knew what was in his heart — occurred when he read a poem about a dead Irish leader — a poem with words which could easily apply to his late brother.

There were no gestures during the speech, and when he grinned, it was just a momentary flash of the famed Kennedy smile. When he finished delivering his remarks in a low-key style, he closed his manuscript book and quietly said, “Thank you.”

He responded to the standing ovation with a smile that showed appreciation. As he left the dining room, he grasped outstretched hands, his shoulders slightly hunched and leaning slightly forward — much in the manner of walk of the late President.


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