Ted Kennedy just finished speaking, in seriously impassioned fashion to a sympathetic crowd at American. He spoke for only about 15 minutes, but made more than one subtle reference to the “division” and “distortion” that has perhaps prompted his endorsement. Key remarks (which may not match the eventual transcript):

I feel change in the air. …I’ll support the candidate who inspires me, who inspires all of us, who can lift our vision and summon our dreams and renew our hopes that our country’s best days lie ahead. I found that candidate. And I think you have too.

He then gave fair credit and due to “the hard work and dedication” of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, citing them as “my friends,” and assuring the audience that “whoever is the nominee will have my enthusiastic support, and will have yours too. Let there be no doubt that we are all committed to having a Democratic president in 2008.”

He continued: “But I believe there is one candidate who possesses extraordinary talents and character matched to the extraordinary demands of today.”

In case we were wondering, it is Barack Hussein Obama.

He is a leader who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past; he is a leader who sees the world clearly without being cynical. He is a fighter who believes passionately in the causes he believes in without demonizing those who hold a different view.

He has an uncommon capacity to appeal to the better angels of our nature…. I am here to offer my help, offer my voice, offer my energy, offer my commitment to make Barack Obama the next president.

The justification:

I was moved four years ago when he told us a truth, that we must be not just red states and blue states but we must be [here the crowd joined in] United States. Since that time I have marveled at his grit and his grace as he went across the country and inspired people of all races, all genders, all parties, all faiths… I’ve seen him connect with people of all walks of life and on both sides of the aisle.

The “movement” talk is well and good, and clearly put Obama’s particular charms in perspective. But primarily, Kennedy was here to establish Obama’s senatorial bona fides, and certainly did his duty. He spoke convincingly about Obama’s  legislative accomplishments (“He was there in the early hours to help us hammer out a compromise on immigration reform”), and delivered a simple putdown of Clinton’s mantra that brought the house down: “I know that he’s ready to be President on day one.” 

Kennedy also invoked his brother’s period conflict with a certain former president who privileged experience over John Kennedy’s inspirational mien. He cited Harry Truman, saying then, “We needed someone with greater experience,” adding a gentle “I urge you to be patient.” Ted paraphrased JFK’s response in closing: “The world is changing, the old ways will not do…And so it is with Barack Obama. … My friends I ask you to join in this journey. To have the courage to make change.”

All in all, it was a solid, controlled tactical effort from a speaker draped in gravitas. I particularly enjoyed the “Obamer” that would occasionally escape in Kennedy’s thick Boston accent.

--Dayo Olopade

(Photo courtesy Getty Images) 

Update: Full text and video here