March 9th, 2009
09:25 AM ET
11 years ago

Obama appearance caps off Kennedy fete in D.C.

Obama led the chorus of Happy Birthday at the Kennedy Center last night.

Obama led the chorus of Happy Birthday at the Kennedy Center last night.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama led a chorus of "Happy Birthday" for Sen. Ted Kennedy on Sunday night at the Kennedy Center, topping off a celebration of the senator's 77th birthday that featured a crowd of celebrities and political heavyweights.

The Massachusetts Democrat, whose birthday was on Feb. 22, received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award during an evening that included performances by Broadway star Bernadette Peters, opera singers Denyce Graves and Frederica von Stade, singer James Taylor, actress Lauren Bacall, comedian Bill Cosby and others. First lady Michelle Obama and the state's other senator, John Kerry, sat with Kennedy and wife, Victoria, in a box overlooking the stage. The president also visited the senator there after his surprise appearance.

Watch: Obama dances for Kennedy

"Happy birthday, Teddy," said niece Caroline Kennedy, who joked: "I never thought I'd be in a room with so many senators." Kennedy's brief stint as a Senate candidate grabbed headlines for several months before she withdrew from consideration earlier this year.

Caroline Kennedy and journalist Al Hunt presented the Profile in Courage Award to the senator, who did not appear onstage. "For you, there is no end to commitment," she said. "Only the next great battle."

Ted Kennedy was the unanimous selection of the committee that decides the award this year, the first he has been eligible, according to the John F. Kennedy Library. He had been nominated in previous years, but could not receive the honor while serving as a member of the selection committee.

Kennedy has been recovering in Florida following treatment for a brain tumor, but returned to the capital last week for the White House health care reform summit.

The Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience. Past recipients include Rep. John Lewis, Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

Filed under: President Obama • Ted Kennedy
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. get real dude

    Love you Senator Kennedy, Happy Bithday, I admire you for many things. Bless you.and your family. President Obama and first lady , much love to you and your family too!

    March 9, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  2. b. hARRIS

    Happy Birthday Senator Kennedy, and I wish you well. Thank you Sir for your continous service for our nation.


    March 9, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  3. Brian

    Happy birthday and God bless Teddy Kennedy. A true champion of civil liberties and the underprivileged — he embodies the very virtues this nation was founded on. Can you imagine the United States of America without him?

    March 9, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  4. paula Wesley

    Happy Birthday Sir Ted Kennedy. You and your family have served the country well. Wish you many more birthdays. It's good to see the First Family so socialble. We've missed this for the past 8 years. They work hard and deserve some fun.

    March 9, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  5. Aurrelie

    What a great lesson of courage. Happy birthday and many more for Ted.

    March 9, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  6. Virginia

    Why are there not calls about Kennedy being "too old" to be in the senate, yet everyone wants to get rid of John McCain? Doesn't make sense to me, but then the Dems are not always fair, are they? Go home old man, we are tired of looking at all the Kennedys around Washington!

    March 9, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  7. sbkilb Ct

    Happy Birthday and thank you for all you have done through the years!Last year at this time I went and saw OBAMA and Sen. Kennedy, it was a time I will always remember!!!!!

    March 9, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. Clint, Wa.

    Happy Birthday, Senator Kennedy, and thank you for all your years of service.

    March 9, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  9. buy a clue

    Happy Birthday Ted.

    March 9, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  10. DE

    Nice, the empty suit President and Democrats honoring a drunken murderer. Change for the worse we can believe in.

    March 9, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  11. art

    H.B. Ted. Now, its time for you to leave the Senate. At 77 you should retire and let someone else(look at it this way, at least it will create A job) worry about saving the ecomony and the rest of us.
    Yes, I'm a democrat.

    March 9, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  12. New Yorker

    Party away while so many are losing their jobs and the future looks bleak for America. What else will Obama and his liberal cronies get away with? And you Obamabots continue to support this frivolous show of excess while the Chinese are provoking us on the high seas.

    March 9, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  13. cnnnewser

    I'm happy that Teddy received this birthday honor.
    Happy Birthday, Ted!

    March 9, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  14. phoenix86

    I see the Nero administration is alive and partying well in Washington.

    March 9, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  15. Rick

    Sounds like everything that is wrong with our country gathered in one room.

    March 9, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  16. spring forward

    Happy Birthday Sir, and God's Blessings.

    March 9, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  17. Sharon Northern Virginia


    March 9, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. C W

    Happy Birthday, Senator Kennedy! You and your family have done so much for our country! May you all enjoy many more, happy years.

    March 9, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  19. Karen

    Happy Birthday Senator Kennedy!! Thank you so very much for all that you have done and are doing in behalf of the American people!

    God's continued blessings to you and your family!!

    March 9, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  20. nenecats Houston

    Happy Birthday Senator Kennedy. You have done so much for all
    of us. Here's to wishing you improving and continuing health.
    We love you.

    March 9, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  21. Time for Term Limits

    Kennedy has turned the U.S. Senate into the world's most extravagant nursing home, with a little help from Byrd, Spector and Bunning. Time for you to retire, meet your grandchildren and give someone else a chance to serve.

    March 9, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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