Navigator Insights

When Leaders front up

Some leaders prefer to always front the good news.  A sign of a great leader is when he or she fronts difficult meetings or audiences.  One of my favourite speeches is from Robert F Kennedy when he fronted a crowd of African-American fellow citizens in Indianapolis on the night that Martin Luther King Jnr was killed.  That is the hardest crowd you will ever get – raw emotion, growing hatred and on the verge of rioting.

For those who are unaware of the background to this great speech, a quick summary:  Kennedy, the United States senator from New York, was campaigning to earn the 1968 Democratic Presidential nomination when he learned that King had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  Before boarding a plane to attend campaign rallies in Indianapolis, Kennedy learned that King had been shot. When he arrived, Kennedy was informed that King had died.

Despite fears of riots and concerns for his safety, Kennedy went ahead with plans to attend a rally at 17th and Broadway in the heart of Indianapolis’s African-American community. He went straight to the rally from the airport.

Kennedy’s press secretary quickly wrote a speech for him but the speech notes were not used. Instead Kennedy spoke off the cuff and from the heart.  That evening Kennedy addressed the crowd, many of whom had not heard about King’s assassination – the raw emotion in the video is very sad.  In response to a crowd growing in anger and mourning, Kennedy offered brief, impassioned remarks for peace that is considered to be one of the great public addresses of the modern era.  Enjoy the video.

That is leadership.

 Our Navigator Partner Peter Fa’afiu is an experienced executive with governance covering human rights, media and education.