By FEDERICA NARANCIO
Jan. 28, 2008
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., endorsed Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., today at American University saying he was “a man of leadership and character” that best represented the legacy of the Kennedy family.
Observer photo by Federica Valabrega.
Barack Obama looks at the thousands of American University students who showed up.
“Every time I’ve been asked who I would support in the Democratic primaries I said the same: that I would support someone who inspires us and renewed our beliefs in the American dream. I found that candidate and I think you have to,” Kennedy said to a roaring crowd of nearly 6,000 people at the rally in Washington D.C.
He was accompanied by his niece, Caroline Kennedy, and his son, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, D-R.I., who also expressed their support for Obama.
Caroline Kennedy, who wrote a New York Times editorial on Sunday stating that Obama best represents her father’s ideals, thanked American University for continuing her family’s commitment to public service.
The official backing of Edward Kennedy, a Democratic icon and veteran of the Senate, gave a major boost to Obama’s campaign before the “Super Tuesday” presidential primaries on Feb. 5.
“This is the biggest thing in Democratic politics and we are thrilled to have the support of so many members in his family,” Robert Gibbs, spokesperson for Obama said to the Observer. “This will add to the momentum that we started in South Carolina.”
In a 20-minute speech, Senator Kennedy established several parallels between his assassinated brother and Obama. “In the 1960s I came to the senate and had a president that inspired the young people,” he said, “and now I see the same in Obama.”
Observer photo by Cristina Fernandez-Pereda
Sen. Ted Kennedy listens to Barack Obama.
According to the senator, like former President Kennedy, Obama has the capacity to transcend race and gender and transmits a message of “hope to the American people.”
Kennedy also reminded the audience that at the time of his brother’s presidential campaign he was criticized for being too young and inexperienced, an argument that today is also held against Obama in his quest for the presidential nomination.
“But we hold his true record. He is a man of courage and from the beginning opposed the war in Iraq. Let no one deny it!” Kennedy exclaimed.
When Obama took the stand, the young crowd effusively applauded him and a women shouted in Spanish: “Si se puede!” (“Yes we can!”).
“This presidential race is not about rich versus poor, and not about gender or black versus white. It is about the past versus the future,” Obama said, also in allusion to the criticisms he got from the other Democratic contenders for his lack of experience.
Obama also said that Kennedy’s endorsement meant something “more than political to me. It is personal.”
“I saw how my parents and grandparents spoke about the Kennedys. They inspired my family and others in the country.”
According to Lynn Sweet, a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times that has followed Obama since his race for the Senate, “he has been seeking Kennedy’s support since he started running for president.”
“It is very big symbolically and substantively, since Obama has been invoking the name of Kennedy and trying to link himself to Kennedy along the campaign,” she said to the Observer.
The news media reported last week that Kennedy’s endorsement was assertively sought by all the Democratic contenders, especially by the Clintons.
When it became clear that he was going to embrace Obama’s campaign, however, the Clintons “launched a last-ditch effort to stop Kennedy’s move, orchestrating a flood of phone calls to Kennedy from sources ranging from union chiefs to his Massachusetts constituents,” according to the Washington news Web site Politico.com.
After the rally, Rep. Patrick Kennedy said to reporters that his father’s endorsement will give Obama the “institutional support and credibility” that his campaign needed.
“Barack has been very successful with the outsiders at drawing independents, but hit a tough nut to crack with insiders: the traditional constituencies that Bill and Hillary courted for ages,” he said.
“However, they are the same constituencies my father courted for even longer.”