May 25th, 2008
05:45 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama subs for Kennedy at commencement

Obama stepped in for Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was originally scheduled to speak.

Obama stepped in for Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was originally scheduled to speak.

MIDDLETOWN, Connecticut (CNN) – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was, as he called it, "pinch-hitting" Sunday for fellow Senate colleague and Obama supporter Ted Kennedy.

In his address to the crowd gathered at Wesleyan University's commencement exercises, he said the Massachusetts senator is one of his "personal heroes."

"He called me up a few days ago, and I said that I'd be happy to be his stand-in, even if there was no way I could fill his shoes," said the White House hopeful.

"Teddy wanted to be here very much, but as you know, he's had a very long week and is taking some much-needed rest."

Kennedy was diagnosed Tuesday with a malignant brain tumor. Obama said he had a message the Massachusetts senator wanted to pass along.

"To all those praying for my return to good health, I offer my heartfelt thanks. And to any who'd rather have a different result, I say, don't get your hopes up just yet!"

Kennedy's stepdaughter Caroline Raclin was among the graduates at the ceremony. Kennedy's wife, Vicki Kennedy, was also in attendance.

Obama said Kennedy had been planning to discuss the theme of service to one's country, a theme "that nobody could discuss with more authority or inspiration than Ted Kennedy."

His speech wasn't completely apolitical, either, as Obama gave subtle reminders he was still in the middle of a campaign for the presidency.

"There are so many ways to serve and so much need at this defining moment in our history," he said. "You don't have to be a community organizer or do something crazy like run for President."

He also gave a brief glimpse into an Obama administration. "As President, I intend to grow the Foreign Service, double the Peace Corps over the next few years, and engage the young people of other nations in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity."

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (171 Responses)
  1. David Goldman for OBAMA


    May 25, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |

    Love to know Senator still has his humor!! I want him to know I am praying for him to recover. God is able!

    May 25, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  3. Hillary 2 Victory




    May 25, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  4. 58 old white ladies for OBAMA


    May 25, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  5. same ppl=same idea. new folks = change

    yes we can

    May 25, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  6. canada

    thank you obama the whole world need you and we love you.

    May 25, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  7. Mimi De La Cruz for OBAMA



    May 25, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  8. BJ

    THIS would be interesting to note!

    WILL the Obama kool-aid drinkers answer HIS CALL to SERVE?

    Will they be willing to give up their lattes, bmw's, shopping sprees, spa treatments, and "me me me" attitudes?

    CAN they WALK THE WALK? or just "talk the talk"?

    May 25, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  9. No McSame

    Hello Mr. president Obama. You make America proud. George Bush this is how you do it. You stumble bumble fumble over every speech that I have had the displeasure of listening to. It will be good to see once again a president that is presidential.

    May 25, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  10. Republican for obama

    I watched the streaming video of the speech and thought it was very inspiring for those young students. Another great speech by a great man.

    I only wish I had someone as such deliver my commencement address during my graduation. Instead, I had some tired old man I never heard of that stuttered and stumbled through each sentence.

    These are some lucky students.

    May 25, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  11. Bruce in Florida

    It would have been nice if you'd play his complete speech at the scool instead of little snipettes, on the ballet bowl. You certainly gave plenty of time to Hillary, who I can't stand.

    May 25, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  12. Shane


    May 25, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  13. Ikem Umealo

    Senator Obama Sir, your place in history is almost sacred. God bless you and bless Senator ed Kennedy as He blesses America.

    May 25, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  14. fafa

    Good job. Humble. Voluntering for the Peace Corps, thats alright. McCain will come around and said you didn't say much about memorial day. Ignore him. I rather be in the peace than be singing Bomb. bomb, bomb Iran.

    Senator, you really it to win this thing in November. I think ahteral you would be the nominee but you never know the Clinton. Never count them out. The whole world is watching. Come November 4th. I will proudly tell my son, nomatter the odds in life you can make too just like I have so far.

    Senator Obama the world is watching. I am watching too.

    May 25, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  15. Paul- Ireland

    Such an honour to be asked by Ted Kennedy to speak on
    his behalf!

    Speaks volumes about the young senator!.. Trustworthy. Honest. Loyal. The world could really do with a U.S president who has some honesty for a change.. After all, the decisions made in november will, unfortunately, effect all of us!.. Thank you G. Bush for making the world a "safer place"?? i wonder..

    While the U.S complains about Gas costing $4 a gallon...prices here are 40%+ more! The U.S. economy isnt the only economy Mr. Bush has had an effect on... by starting an unjust war in iraq, the whole world has suffered!

    Europe for Obama!!

    May 25, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  16. H



    May 25, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  17. Reality

    BARACK is the MAN !!! AWESOME STUFF !! 🙂

    May 25, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  18. Travis (in the real world)

    Barak you are a true man that can step up to the bat're a true Valicatorian by any means....God Bless America and I'm thankful for having someone like you to lead the country.

    May 25, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  19. Herman in LA

    In all of my life I have only been move by a few other presidential candidates. I was move from day one when I first heard senator Obama speak in 2004 on TV and at that moment I knew that he was the person if any that could lead this country back to some sense of dignity. His speech’s brings me to tears every time I hear him speak and Dr. King rings through my heart and soul. Senator Obama brings me so much hope and inspiration not only for me but my children as well. I hope that this great country will rise to the occasion and swear in the next president Barack Obama who can reach across the aisle find command ground to move this country forward with out self interests, race, greed, religion, sexual preferences, and self predication that is Senator Barack Obama.

    May 25, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |

    Wesleyan University? How about speaking at a Black University? You sure don't spend a lot ot time in the African American community. I wonder why? By the way, how much money do you spend in the Black media? Newspapers, magazines, radio stations, etc. You seem to be very uncomfortable around Blacks......UM....................??

    Just a thought..........

    May 25, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  21. Kathy

    My question to the “under 30 generation” who for the first time in their lives have
    “found their voice”… in Obama…..where have you been? Why have you not exercised
    not only your right to vote, but your sense of patriotism? You place your faith in a man
    who has not been tested, who does not have a record of accomplishment, short
    resume’ and little experience in international nor economic matters. For shame!

    Life to you folks seems quite simple. How rarely have you yourselves been tested, faced
    adversity, struggled? I suppose in your minds and eyes, Obama offers a sense of
    entitlement. You cannot see past his rhetoric to see there is little substance. You buy
    into his chant of “change..yes we can” with little thought as to the complexities involved
    in bringing about the type of change he preaches about. To you folks, he is the coming
    of the messiah, here to save us from ourselves. It is him himself who believes that he is entitled. He may in fact be anointed the nominee and you like him will think nothing
    can stop you. The simple and relevant truth is……. One can fool some of the people
    some of the time…but not all the people…. all the time.
    McCain may not represent the party for whom I relate to, however, I respect his honor,
    integrity and sacrifice to our country …. And I will place my hope for change in him. He
    has earned my respect.
    For our countries sake and that of our future….thank god there are more of us than you
    and we will not allow this fantasy to continue past Nov.

    ***A note to the DNC party chairs and uncommitted superdelgates… either stop
    this false prophet now….or we will with our votes come Nov.

    May 25, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  22. South Sider

    This was a wonderful speech, Sen. Obama. You and Sen. Kennedy are great men of integrity.

    Obama '08

    May 25, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  23. ALEX

    You should have came to the University of Baltimore

    May 25, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  24. mike concerned democrate

    I'm in awe of the mastery of communication the Kennedy family has inherent in thier genes.
    Obama couldn't be a better stand in albeit a long way to go to compare to the Kennedy's

    May 25, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  25. tia


    May 25, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
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