CAROLINE KENNEDY: I am here tonight to pay tribute to two men who have changed my life and the life of this country: Barack Obama and Edward M. Kennedy. Their stories are very different, but they share a commitment to the timeless American ideals of justice and fairness, service and sacrifice, faith and family.
Leaders like them come along rarely. But once or twice in a lifetime, they come along just when we need them the most. This is one of those moments. As our nation faces a fundamental choice between moving forward or falling further behind, Senator Obama offers the change we need.
Everywhere I go in this country, people tell me that Barack Obama is making them feel hopeful the way they did when my father was president. It’s partly the words he uses – words that remind us that we are all in this together and that we each have something to contribute to this country that has given us so much. But it’s the life he has led that is the true source of this inspiration – a life spent fighting for ordinary people in neighborhoods and courts, in the state senate and the United States Senate.
I have never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them, but I do now, Barack Obama. And I know someone else who’s been inspired all over again by Senator Obama. In our family, he’s known as Uncle Teddy. More than any senator of his generation, or perhaps any generation, Teddy has made life better for people in this country and around the world.
For 46 years, he has been so much more than just a senator for the people of Massachusetts. He’s been a senator for all who believe in a dream that’s never died. If you’re no longer being denied a job because of your race, gender or disability, or if you’ve seen a rise in the minimum wage you’re being paid, Teddy is your senator too.
If your children are receiving health care thanks to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, if you see a nurse at a community health center or if you’re benefiting from the Medicare program that he fought to create, and that just last month he returned to the Senate to save, Teddy is your senator too. If your child is getting an early boost in life through Head Start, or attending a better school or can go to college because a Pell grant has made it more affordable, Teddy is your senator too. And if you’re an 18-year-old who’s going to vote for the first time — and I bet it’ll be for Barack Obama — Teddy is your senator too.
Not only has Teddy helped put the American dream within reach for so many families, he’s been a powerful force around the world for human rights and human dignity, for refugees and the dispossessed. He helped end apartheid in South Africa and bring peace to Northern Ireland. He’s been a leader on nuclear arms control. And he took a strong, early and courageous stand against the war in Iraq.
He is a man who always insists that America live up to her highest ideals, who always fights for what he knows is right and who is always there for others. I’ve seen it in my own life. No matter how busy he is, he never fails to find time for those in pain, those in grief or those who just need a hug. In our family, he has never missed a first communion, a graduation, or a chance to walk one of his nieces down the aisle.
He has a special relationship with each of us. And his 60 great nieces and nephews all know that the best cookies and the best laughs are always found at Uncle Teddy’s. Whether he is teaching us about sailing, about the Senate or about life, he has shown us how to chart our course, take the helm and sail against the wind. And this summer, as he faced yet another challenge, he and Vicki have taught us all about dignity, courage and the power of love.
In this campaign, Barack Obama has no greater champion. When he is president, he will have no stronger partner in the United States Senate. Now, it is my honor to introduce a tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.