1968 | Lawrence, KS

Exchange Value

Robert F. Kennedy gives a speech.

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.

Our gross national product now is over $800 billion a year, but that GNP—if we should judge America by that—counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs that glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the GNP does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.


Robert F. Kennedy

From a speech. “I don’t know whether you’re going to like what I’m going to say today,” Kennedy warned students at the University of Kansas before delivering this speech in March 1968, early in his presidential campaign. Three months later he won the California primary and was soon after shot and killed at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Vice President Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic Party nominee in August and lost in the general election to Richard Nixon.