In a surprise appearance at the Democratic Convention Monday night Sen. Edward Kennedy gave an emotional speech that invoked the legacy of his family and passed it on to Barack Obama.
Kennedy, who is three months into intensive treatment for a malignant brain tumor, showed the physical and emotional effects of that struggle as he delivered an eight-minute address to a packed convention hall that cheered and chanted his name.
“The torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans with Barack Obama. And for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause,” Kennedy said. “The work begins anew, the hope rises again and the dream lives on.”
Kennedy’s speech followed a video tribute produced by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. It recalled the life of the nine-term senator and drew parallels to Obama and his candidacy for president.
The video included tributes to both Kennedy and Obama by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Sen. John Kerry, of Massachusetts.
Kennedy wore an ace bandage on his left hand and he had shed some hair from chemotherapy. The 76-year-old teared up several times during his speech and was clearly battling his emotions from his opening remark when he told the audience, “It’s so wonderful to be here and nothing is going to keep me away form this special gathering tonight.”
Kennedy also pledged to be back on the Senate floor in January. “For me, this is the season of hope,” Kennedy said.
The speech produced a strong emotional charge that was felt throughout the convention hall.
“It was very brave of him to give the speech,” said Sen. Bernard Sanders, of Vermont. “He understands how important this election is and is willing to sacrifice to make sure Obama gets elected president.”
Rep. Chaka Fattah said the speech bridged the Kennedy legacy to Obama. “One of Obama’s challenges is the over 60 crowd and this speaks to them very well,” Fattah said.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, of Illinois, said Kennedy made an impact just by showing up and his speech, “shows he still has the kind of spit and vinegar for a party convention speech.”