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Ethel Kennedy to speak at ND

Katie Peralta | Friday, April 4, 2008

The Notre Dame College Democrats have had their hands full with the lively Democratic campaigning this spring and their efforts will continue this weekend with another historical guest speaker on campus.

The group will sponsor a talk by Ethel Kennedy, wife of the late Robert F. Kennedy, at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Washington Hall.

“The [Barack] Obama campaign had been wanting her to come to Notre Dame,” said Chris Rhodenbaugh, current vice president of College Democrats and freshman from St. Edward’s Hall.

Rhodenbaugh said. Kennedy, along with brother-in-law, Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy, endorsed Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama earlier this year.

Rhodenbaugh said the purpose for Kennedy’s visit is twofold.

“[She is coming] to demonstrate the presence of Obama’s campaign on campus and [because] she is Catholic,” Rhodenbaugh said.

College Democrats finalized plans for Kennedy’s appearance earlier this week.

“Chris let me know the Obama campaign wanted her to come, then we went to SAO [Student Activities Office] to work out the details and the policy,” said Cory Mehlos, co-president emeritus of the College Democrats and a senior in Dillon Hall. “It was pretty simple.”

The visit marks the 40th anniversary of her husband’s campaign trip to the South Bend area during his run for the Democratic Party nomination.

Robert Kennedy had spoken at the Stepan Center the morning of April 4, 1968, the day on which Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot later in the afternoon, Mehlos said.

Mehlos said following his talk at Notre Dame, Robert Kennedy was notified that King was shot and put together a few notes on his way down to Indianapolis. Police, fearing riots, urged him against speaking publicly, but Kennedy spoke anyways and moved the crowd deeply.

“[Indianapolis] was perhaps one of the only major cities in the nation where there were no riots that day,” Mehlos said. “Bobby’s campaign ensured that the American dream might live on for generations,”

College Democrats sponsored a visit from Chelsea Clinton and Sean Astin, the actor who played the title role in the movie “Rudy,” last week. Mehlos said Astin endorsed Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Mehlos said becoming involved in politics is especially important this year.

“The most important thing is to get involved in the political election,” Mehlos said. “It has been 40 years since we [Indiana] have had a competitive primary. That makes this election historical.”

Max Kennedy, ninth child of Ethel and Robert, will join his mother on campus. Admission is free.