Monday, January 28, 2008

Caroline Kennedy Endorsement is Big

This one has substance!
by Charlie Leck

The Sunday morning edition of the NY Times brings
an endorsement for Barack Obama from Caroline Kennedy.
It will be followed later this morning by the endorsement of
Senator Edward Kennedy.
Caroline's endorsement is big!
Why? Let me tell you why I think it is.

Basically, there are two reasons why this is an enormous endorsement for Barack Obama. It's big enough that it may actually carry the day for Obama. That's not because the endorsement will influence the voters, but because it will influence many of those who do influence voters.

The Kennedy name still carries great élan in the Democratic Party. JFK and FDR are the two presidents who define the party. That's reason number one and enough said about it.

Reason number two is that Caroline Kennedy, herself, is deeply admired within the party and among those who consider themselves loyal and faithful democrats. I have extremely high regard for her.

It seems that Ms. Kennedy took to heart her father's plea that we do things "for our country" instead of expecting our country to do things for us. She's the real deal! If you've never heard her speak, you've missed something very special. She doesn't speak often, because she so cherishes her privacy, but when she does, she captivates everyone with her deep sincerity and obvious thoughtfulness. I'll never forget being glued to the television in 2000 when she introduced her uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy.

''I thank all Americans for making me and John, and all of our family, a part of your families -- for reaching out and sustaining us through the good times, and the difficult ones, and for helping us dream my father's dream. As I look across this hall, and across this country, I know that my father's spirit lives on, and I thank all of you… Now, it is our turn to prove that the New Frontier was not a place in time, but a timeless call,… Now, we are the New Frontier. And now, when many of us are doing so well, it is time once again to ask more of ourselves. As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.''

A prosperity of kindness and decency
She spoke with such strength and confidence, with such clarity and with such a sense of rhythm. She brought back to us her father for those few moments and she became for all of us a symbol of what he might have been and what we lost. I thought then that those words – "a prosperity of kindness and decency' – would become as famous as any words ever spoken at a political rally. Alas, they did not.

How proud of her I was when she quoted her father and spoke his words with the same strength and clearness that JFK himself had expressed.

''Our call is to the young at heart, regardless of age. The whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust; we cannot fail to try.''

When he took the podium, following Caroline's introduction, Senator Kennedy said precisely to Caroline what I was feeling at the moment, indicating that Caroline possessed "…the poise, strength, the purpose that belonged to your father and the dignity and grace of your mother that inspired a nation."

It was young Caroline who woke her father on the morning after the election, letting him know he had been victorious. She jumped up and down on him as he lay in his bed, shouting "Good morning, Mr. President! Good morning, Mr. President!"

She speaks publicly so infrequently, but her carefully chosen and spoken words can be heard on occasion. Annually she presents the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. In her 1999 presentation of the award to Senator Russ Feingold and John McCain, Mrs. Kennedy-Schlossberg spoke eloquently:

"John F. Kennedy warned that the 'high court of history' would judge all elected officials one day on whether they were people 'with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and compromised by no private obligations or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest.'"

Caroline Kennedy married Edwin Schlossberg in 1986. She has lived a very private and quiet life. She has written a bit and given us some good works, including her 1991 book, In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action. She is a graduate of Radcliffe and received her Juris Doctor degree from Columbia in 1988. She's on the boards of the John F. Kennedy Library, the Kennedy Foundation and the American Ballet Theatre.

Now, this endorsement of Obama rings with the same kind of patriotic fervor that her speech at the 2000 convention contained:

"Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plan and reach for what we know is possible."

Caroline Kennedy indicated that the candidates were terribly similar in ideals and policy. This year, it would be quality of leadership that would make the difference.

"I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift or spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved."

I have had a great deal of trouble thinking through my choice for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. I'm still struggling, but Caroline Kennedy has given me something of a lamppost on these dark streets.

If the candidates don't stop bickering about issues and policies over which they are basically in agreement, and begin talking about qualities of leadership and methods of implementation, they are missing that which the American public most wants to hear.

Read the New York Times article about the Caroline Kennedy speech in 2000 at:

Read an excellent article by Rick Hampton in USA Today on the day before the speech:

Next: Minnesota should choose Al Franken

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