A Ripple of Hope

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
A Ripple of Hope Movie Poster Image
Unforgettable docu about RFK speech post-MLK assassination.
  • NR
  • 2010
  • 54 minutes

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Positive Messages

This documentary shows the courage and integrity of Robert F. Kennedy as he gives one of the greatest speeches in American history on the night Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. As Kennedy speaks from the heart about the pain and rage people were feeling that night, his deep empathy and resounding sincerity reminds everyone of Dr. King's message of love and equality.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While the vast majority of Kennedy's staff, as well as the mayor of Indianapolis, told Kennedy not to give a speech in the inner city on the night of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, he did it anyway, because he believed he had an important message to convey to the audience and to the rest of America. Testimonials in the documentary attest to Kennedy's unflinching honesty with those he met, and his similarities and relationship to Dr. King.


There are brief scenes of riot footage in Chicago and Detroit.


"Pissed off," "bulls--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Ripple of Hope is an inspiring and deeply moving documentary about the speech Robert F. Kennedy gave in the inner city of Indianapolis, Indiana on the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. This documentary is a perfect counterpoint to much of what kids see today in political discourse, and is a shining example of what happens when one man shows empathy and appeals to our ideals rather than our cynicism and hatred. Overall, this is a must-see documentary about one of the greatest speeches in American history.

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What's the story?

On the night of April 4, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was scheduled to give a speech in the inner city of Indianapolis, Indiana in support of his campaign for the presidency. That evening, he learned the horrible news that Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed. As the African-American ghettos raged and rioted in anger over the news, many in RFK's staff, as well as the mayor of Indianapolis, told Kennedy to cancel the speech. Instead, Kennedy gave one of his greatest speeches, and one of the greatest speeches in American history: a plea for love and compassion over hatred and violence, a restatement of the ideals Dr. King practiced and preached, and a heart-wrenching statement of empathy as Kennedy discussed for the first time in public the pain he felt over the assassination of his older brother. As riots broke out in 76 cities throughout the United States, Indianapolis was spared, and people credit Kennedy's speech for preventing violence. This documentary captures this tumultuous time in American history.

Is it any good?

A RIPPLE OF HOPE is a truly unforgettable documentary about an extraordinary speech given in the midst of tumultuous events. Through archival footage and testimonials, what emerges here is a story of courage and a high-minded and sincere appeal to the American ideal at a time when it was easy to call such ideals into question. In an era of hyper-partisan battles and a media climate filled with incendiary pundits and demogogues, this documentary serves as a reminder of a time when one politician rose above the rhetoric and spoke from the heart, and instead of dividing people, he united those in attendance and prevented a riot from happening. 

This documentary is a must-see for families interested in American history, and especially for kids and teens interested in public service as a possible career. Between families, it should inspire discussion about how politicians typically communicate their ideas (their aren't too many politicians these days quoting Aeschylus, for instance), as well as thoughts on the American Dream and what that means, as well as race and equality.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. What did you learn from this documentary about both of these men?

  • For parents (or grandparents) who lived through the tumultuous events of 1968, how does this documentary match up with your direct experience of these events?

  • In terms of music and fashion, our culture and media often looks back fondly on the 1960s, romanticizing the era as a kind of golden age. How does this documentary call such sentiment into question?

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