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. Molly

    Yes – obam can give a good speech – ONE that is WRITTEN for him – he delivers it with style. BUT – this does not make him Qualified to be President of the USA.

    Keep Fighting Hillary – against the obama dirty politics. Too bad he did not mention the LIES his campaign told about the RFK "Story"-Axelrod is a DISGRACE – all this from the candidate of change and unity! But – now we are told to "move on" – AFTER they sent the media FALSE info on Clinton – they are desperate because they know Hillary is way up in the polls to beat both McCain & obama – has MILLIONS VOTING for her – even with their constant chant to get out – I've won. Hillary Clinton has the Electorial Map – to WIN the white house – obama does NOT – that is why he is desperate to have this over – before Hillary WINS the popular vote. That is why he does not want to count – or re-vote FL & MI – and that is WHY the supers have not flooded to him!
    Funny how the obama group and Sharpton said you Must go with the Will of the People – the Supers cannot take this away from our guy – we will riot! Well, NOW they demand the supers Give this to him – forget about the will of the people – Talk about "Change"!!!
    Oama is a Fraud – figure it out!


    May 25, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  2. Josh


    We may have a president that inspires us to get involved with our country.

    Obama 08

    May 25, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  3. Zoe

    Don't miss the full transcript of Obama's speech today....
    It is earnest, inspired and inspiring.
    Wherever you are on the political spectrum,
    it is a thing to be appreciated.

    Today a fine Amercian spoke and young America,
    the American of our children and grandchildren, listened
    and took service to America into their hearts.

    I have hope we can.....and we will.
    God bless America...and God bless the World.

    May 25, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |

    I pray that Senator Kennedy by the grace of God have a good recovery and better health. I also pray that Senator Obama wins the nomination and never, ever offer the VP position to Hillary Clinton with whom invoked his death or sent out a code to those who don't like black people. She is evil and divisive a nasty person to be around or even look at on TV.

    May 25, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  5. David Menifee, Ca

    This is good that he's doing this deed. But as a Vet of this country, and an African American it make me upset when I hear people questioning this man patriotism. Black people are devoted and love this country. I didn’t hear anyone questioning Hilary Clinton or John Mccain maybe they should have. The way our jobs are leaving this country maybe we should question these CEO too. I know this isn’t a part of this subject I felt a need to add this. Good luck to all the new Graduates.

    May 25, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  6. Vittorio

    that was nice of him

    May 25, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  7. Tom, Boston MA

    by blocking corporate landgrab in the name of wind farm in nantucket

    (a political oppotunism on corporate america's part),

    Senator Kennedy stuck his neck out,

    knowing full well how the corpocons were gonna spin it – "elitist kennedy is blocking alternative energy development for the sake of his view from his hyannis compound"

    to fight the corporate america's all-out effort to influence and dominate the national discussion and decision making about alternative energy development.

    yes, the kennedys have fought to keep the beautiful cape cod and the area accessible to the general public, against corporate development and privitization of the shore.

    just wait until 98% of the population have no access to the beaches without taking out a loan to pay for it!

    May 25, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  8. james

    Just like the old school Kennedy's, Obama is no different.

    I cannot BELIEVE the American people don't see the hypocrisy of it all.

    Clinton can win and without her the dems will have to wait another four years...

    Shame on you hopeful idiots.

    McCain '08 for Clinton '12
    Obama boy, well ... NEVER!!!

    May 25, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  9. Brenda from AZ

    Thank you President Obama. I am sure that Senator Kennedy appreciated you stepping in for him. I wish you all the luck in the upcoming election. Despite the fact that Arizona is McCain's country, you have many supporters here. We democrats will do our best to help you beat McCain in his own home state! He is about as popular here as he is nationally– meaning this state could belong to you.

    May 25, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  10. jaylo

    From Marc Rudin:

    The news media who has been in the tank for Obama in probably the most dishonest and biased coverage of an electoral process in history, accuses her of low tactics if she defends herself. Party elders who, if nothing else, have shown since 1996 they haven't a clue as to how to win a Presidential election, admonish her not to do anything that would damage the Democrats chances in the fall. Howard Dean, more afraid of not losing than making sure the Democrats win by sending out the most electable and qualified candidate, keeps talking about putting an end to race before its over. And Obama seeing that Clinton has one hand tied behind her back, has taken full of advantage, taking his swings when he can, then playing victim if Clinton hits back.

    This has been a race where Clinton has been running with 150 lbs on her back and Obama 110. And even with all that she is now in position to win.

    May 25, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  11. Brandon

    "But I hope you'll remember, during those times of doubt and frustration, that there is nothing naive about your impulse to change this world," he said. "Because all it takes is one act of service - one blow against injustice - to send forth that tiny ripple of hope that Robert Kennedy spoke of."

    How inspiring is that? I hope all the kids not just at Wesleyan University, but around the U.S. celebrating their commencement can have a chance to absorb these words.

    As one of the pillars of Obama's campaign states, just 3 simple words.

    Yes, we can.

    May 25, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  12. Mrs. Linda Carter

    I was proud to hear the commencment speech of Presedential hopeful Senator Barack Obama on behalf of Senator Ted Kennedy. Senator Obama sowed words of hope to pur next generation of leaders. We need a President that is going to bring change to a dying White House and that will transform the old way of doing things to a new hope for our generations to come. Thank you Senator (Presidential Hopeful) Obama for bringing us that change/ May God Bless you and your family. Hope for Change!

    May 25, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  13. Chris

    Just what I would want at my commencement another vote for me speech by an Ultra-Liberal, and the colleges have the nerve to say there is no bias.

    May 25, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  14. Never Obama

    The move is on...

    It is a fact that Hillary supporters will not support Obama in the general election IF he is the nominee. This is a sincere movement that has started with emails, websites, and phone calls to registered democrats. Currently our projections are at 50% and will be much larger by Nov.

    Sorry Obots. We want EXPERIENCE. Don't take it personal. It is what it is.

    May 25, 2008 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  15. Phil Newton

    Good choice!

    Obama 08

    May 25, 2008 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  16. papu

    Excellent speech.

    May 25, 2008 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  17. Jason

    Remarkable men! go Obama

    May 25, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  18. carlo

    That was such an honorable thing for Obama to do, especially since he is fighting Hillary, Bill, and McCain (oh, and Romney, Fox, Lou Dobbs, and Lieberman) at the same time.

    And Hillary is supposed to be the one that's tired?

    May 25, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  19. d boobaby 6o@aol

    I am pleased to know we the people have candidates to select from in this race .Keep up the good work . you got my vote OK.

    May 25, 2008 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  20. Jerry from Oregon

    what a substitute! who better to fill in for the patriarch of the Kennedy family than the likely Democratic nominee for President who, Like John and Robert Kennedy over 40 years ago, has energized and inspired America about the future?

    Obama may have been 'pinch-hitting'; but with his speaking ability I'm sure it was a home-run!

    May 25, 2008 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |

    smart President.
    Obama '08

    May 25, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  22. Alexis

    He did an excellent job. I'm glad he didn't just give a stump speech. He told some really engaging anecdotes, and I really took a lot away from his speech. He actually makes me hopeful... sounds corny, I know, lol.

    May 25, 2008 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  23. JustADude

    GO DEMS GO !!!

    May 25, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  24. linda from prescott

    Good job!

    May 25, 2008 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  25. Chris

    Obama don’t have the money to sub for a Kennedy!

    May 25, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
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