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New School to Mark Site of Robert Kennedy's Assassination

Los Angeles officials broke ground Monday for a school complex on the former site of the Ambassador Hotel, where Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated 38 years ago. The project gets under way amid new attention to the life of the one-time presidential candidate.

Robert Kennedy's killing was the third to shake the United States in the 1960s. His brother, President John Kennedy, had been shot and killed in Dallas in 1963.

In April 1968, Robert was seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination when he learned of the killing of civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

He broke the shocking news to a crowd in Indianapolis.

"I have some very sad news for all of you and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens and people who love peace all over the world," said Robert Kennedy. "And that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee."

Two months later, Robert also died at the hand of an assassin, a Jordanian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy had just won California's Democratic Party primary election. After his victory speech in the hotel ballroom, he walked through a kitchen pantry, where he was shot.

The hotel site will house a $270-million complex consisting of three schools for students from kindergarten through grade 12. The complex will serve some of the poorest students in the city, says retired school board president Roy Romer, a former governor of Colorado.

He says the effort to get the schools built was a struggle. Some in Los Angeles wanted the Ambassador Hotel preserved as a monument, but the Kennedy family opposed that, and so did Mr. Romer, who wanted a school built there.

"This is probably one of the most challenging fights we have gone through," said Roy Romer. "It is going to be one of the most beautiful results. But the key thing - it is for what reason? It is for equality and social justice."

Those are the goals that his admirers say shaped the career of Robert Kennedy.

The late senator's son Max came for the groundbreaking.

"This is a great day for me and for all of my family," said Max Kennedy. "The city of Los Angeles and Governor Romer have made this commitment to one of the most under-served communities, kids who really have had a terrible, terrible time with schooling."

The new complex should be finished in 2010. It has not yet been named, but many are hoping it will bear the name of Robert Kennedy.

Thursday, a new film that examines events surrounding the assassination will open in U.S. theaters. Called Bobby, it will look at the lives of 22 people at the Ambassador Hotel the day that Robert Kennedy was killed there.