The moment in history when Sirhan Sirhan pulled the trigger and murdered Robert Kennedy on June 5, 1968, is a moment that effected the then California Governor Ronald Reagan deeply and permanently. The moment he heard the terrible news, that Kennedy was shot immediately after making his acceptance speech for winning the California Democratic primary, Reagan tried to reach Ethel Kennedy, to offer support and whatever help he could.
In a short note in the Shapell Manuscript Foundation collection, Reagan wrote the following heartfelt lines:
Mrs. Robt. Kennedy
I know there is little anyone can say at such a time but if there is anything we can do to be of help in any way please let us know.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Nancy & Ronald Reagan
Good Samaritan Hospital
Los Angeles, Calif.”
On that very same day Reagan also began to write a speech which he was to deliver just one week later, on June 13th, at a fundraiser for the Republican Party in Indianapolis, Indiana. In that speech Reagan concluded that the assassination of Kennedy was not just an act of murder, but was actually a terrorist attack, the first in history by an Arab on American soil. Reagan stated that the act found its source in anti-Semitism and blind hatred of the State of Israel; hatred directed equally at the United States. He called the act “senseless savagery” which brought “the violence of war in the Middle East” to the land of America, “imported by an alien” Sirhan Sirhan.
Reagan’s view flew in the face of the mainstream media which focused on the four US presidential assassinations, the recent murder of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr just 8 weeks previous to Kennedy’s murder, and of course the horrifying final blow, the murder of Robert F. Kennedy.
Reagan, as exemplified in his Indiana speech saw a precursor, or a horrific foreshadowing, in the 60s, of the terror ravaged world yet to come.