(A list of the Kennedy family members at the Obama rally is at the end of this column.)
WASHINGTON — Two generations of Kennedys — Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), and niece Caroline — provided Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) with powerful testimonials Monday when they appeared together and said he could be a president in the mold of John F. Kennedy.
“In Barack Obama, I see not just the audacity but the possibility of hope for the America that is yet to be,” Kennedy said.
The three Kennedys passed the torch and legacy of the first family of Democratic politics in the United States to Obama at an emotional event where multiple generations of members of the Kennedy clan watched from risers.
“Your mother and father would be so proud of you today,” Kennedy told his niece.
Later, at a fund-raiser, Obama said, “It was a moment that called for extraordinary humility on my part” and that he had to work to “not get too choked up because that family represents so much about this country and the last forty years, the last fifty years.”
In the evening, Obama sat next to Kennedy at the State of the Union address. Besides the visual symbolism of the Kennedys together at the American University rally for Obama — taped by Obama’s campaign cameras — Kennedy addressed concerns over Obama’s experience with a ringing validation that also served to rebuke Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
“I know that he’s ready to be president on day one,” said Kennedy. “Ready on Day One” is one of Clinton’s main slogans.
“We know the true record of Barack Obama. . . . When so many others were silent or simply went along from the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq, and let no one deny that truth,” Kennedy said, a reference to the Obama camp assertion that former President Bill Clinton was trying to obfuscate Obama’s opposition to authorizing the Iraq war in 2002.
Caroline Kennedy, who announced her endorsement for Obama in a Sunday column in the New York Times headlined “A President Like My Father,” said, “Over the years, I've been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me that they wish they could feel inspired and hopeful about America, the way they did when my father was president. This longing is even more profound today.”
The audience included many members of the Kennedy clan, most sitting together at an end of the gym. Family members at the event were Caroline Kennedy’s three children; Sen. Kennedy’s daughter Kara, with her children; William Kennedy Smith; his mother, former Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith; Tim Shriver and his family; his mother, Eunice Shriver; Courtney Kennedy; Sidney Lawford; Victoria Lawford and Joe Gargan, who was raised by Rose and Joseph Kennedy.
The extended Kennedy family is divided between Clinton and Obama. Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is a Clinton supporter, as is her brother Bobby and sister Kerry, the children of Sen. Robert Kennedy.